Construction Journal Entry Week of 5/14/06

5/16-18/06 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

On the way, I stopped at Lowe's to buy some mortar mix. It took almost an hour because they had substituted a new product for the type I had bought before. I wanted the original type because it was the whitest I could find and I wanted assurances that either the new product was the same as the old except for the packaging, or else that I could still get the original product. The guy tried to contact a Quickcrete representative to get an answer, but he couldn't. Meanwhile, there was a pallet of the old type high on the rack and I spent the majority of the waiting time for him to get his forklift out and get two sacks down for me. I later learned that the two products were different but the old one would still be available.

I also had to stop in at our tax accountant and get our Income Tax return. We had missed the deadline but the accountant had filed an extension for us.

I finally arrived at the property at 1:30. It was a very hot 85 degrees. I hauled the two sacks of mortar mix up the hill and I hauled up a deer block to the drainfield area. Last week I had stopped at Sultan Feed to get a block of salt and they sold me the deer block instead. It looks like compacted grain. I'm not sure it will supply the salt or if I should get another salt block in addition. I'll see what the deer do with this block and then decide.

On one of the trips up the roadway, I found a tooth that I'm sure wasn't there last week. It is a molar about half an inch thick, 7/8" wide, and an inch and a half long. It looks like it has been decomposing and deteriorating for quite a while, but I am puzzled about how it happened to be on the roadway. It must have come from some pretty big animal like a deer or a sheep or something. But what it is and how it got there are mysteries to me.

I watered all 29 Sequoia trees and they all looked in good shape except for one. The one on the drainfield hillside closest to the privy has some brown developing on the ends of some of its needles. That hillside is pretty dry and right in the sun so it may not be a very good spot.

While I was up in the woods, I replaced the screen on the end of the discharge pipe on the spring box. Everything seemed to be in order up there.

I decided that this was the right time to clean up the remnants of the log pile. The neighbors had already taken all of the good firewood so what was left was mostly rotten and infested with ants. I had rolled it all to the sides to make room for the scouts to camp and now that the Visqueen was gone, there was a nice open space for burning. The fire danger was still low and the wood was all dry so this was the perfect time to burn it up.

I got the .032 saw out, gassed and oiled it up and tried to start it. I was very pleased that it started right up as if it hadn't set idle for the two or three years since the last time I used it. I bucked up quite a few of the old logs and stacked up a fairly good pile for burning. I decided I would start the fire in the morning so it would have all day Wednesday to burn.

In the process, of working down at the log pile, I finally saw for sure who was eating the apple cores that I routinely placed on the compost pile. I knew that some animal was taking them but I didn't know if it was chipmunks or squirrels during the day, or mice or packrats during the night, or even the neighbor's dog Bert, who I know likes apple cores. As it turned out, it was a big raven. He evidently didn't know I was there until he had picked up the apple core and tried to leave. He was flying in very tight quarters with that huge wingspan so it was a little awkward for him to get out of the woods once he spotted me. I had frequently seen and heard him around the compost pile, so I suspected he was the guy, but with that apple core hanging out of his beak, there was no doubt any more about who had been taking them.

On Wednesday morning before breakfast, I went out and lit the fire with one match using some pine needles for tinder. Then after breakfast, I went out and stoked some more logs on the fire which by that time was blazing.

I bucked some more logs and then went up and set up to mix mortar and start mortaring the stones in the steps. The weather got pretty hot, but I was in the shade until after noon. At noon, I decided to mix another batch of mortar and keep working because it was going to be unbearably hot in the direct sun later on.

I had set the stones by using other stones and rammed earth to hold them. To mortar them, I used a hose with a strong thin water stream to clean out the dirt between the stones and to clean off the rocks. In some cases, I lifted a stone out of its place and dug away some of the dirt so I could replace it with mortar. With the joints all clean and wet, I packed and troweled the mortar between the stones, and in some cases under a stone which was then tamped down on top of a mortar bed.

I worked until 2:30 before I quit for lunch. By that time, I was overheated and couldn't cool down even though inside the trailer the temperature was 65 degrees. The temperature soon went up to 70 with me in there.

I drank a bunch of Endurox and then I stood in a cool shower for a long time and finally quit sweating. Then I had lunch, but I really didn't feel like eating. I think I worked a little too long in the heat so I decided to take it sort of easy for the rest of the day. I took a nap, which felt good, and then went out and stoked the fire with some more log sections.

The stone steps were in direct sun and it was super hot. I got out a big beach umbrella and set it up to shade the steps to see if I could make it comfortable enough to do some more mortar work. After thinking about it for a while, I decided against it. I went inside and sanded the hollow log in the loft. It was super hot up there and I realized I should have done the sanding in the morning when it was cooler. Oh, well. You live and learn.

When the sanding was finished, I took some pictures of the steps in order to record the progress. I had only mortared the top step all the way across. This is the first step between the two columns but the third step from the bottom starting on the drip line. If I say so myself, it looks pretty good.

On Thursday morning, I varnished the hollow log. That was its third coat so that is all the varnishing I will do until after all the staircases are built and I go back to working in the loft. That may even be a couple years from now. There are several other projects that may have higher priority.

I checked the deer block and saw that the deer had chewed or broken off a couple corners. The broken pieces were lying on the ground. I hope they like it.

Next, I made some detailed measurements of the log structure on the porch structure at the head of where the stair will go so that I can make detailed drawings and figure out exactly how to interface and support the log stringers where they meet the porch. I left for home at 1:30.

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