Construction Journal Entry Week of 9/3/06

9/5-7/06 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I arrived at 12:10. It was a hot 85 degrees. There were no frogs in the gate lock can. I was eager to check out the mouse situation so I went right up to the cabin before I moved in. I found that all the peanuts and traps were untouched except for one mousetrap. That one had been set off and was upside down next to where it had been set. It was also surrounded by a bunch of fluffy mouse fur.

I thought I had cleaned that area up before I left last time, but when I tried to remember for sure I thought that maybe I was mistaken and I had left that mess. I wondered if an ant might have been able to set off the trap. I was puzzled about what was going on and I went outside without coming to a conclusion.

I checked on the sequoia trees by the drainfield and found that the first one was dead but the other two were still alive but looking pretty dry. Back down by the trailer I checked the nine trees in the pots and they all were drooping but still alive. I got a bucket of water out of the creek and watered them all good. Then I moved in and had lunch.

A flock of half a dozen or more gray jays came around soon after I got there so I fed them on numerous occasions during the afternoon. About half of the birds are the new juveniles who have obviously learned that I am an easy touch for food. It was good to see them all again.

Since I was still under doctor's orders not to lift much, I decided to do some wiring this week. No lifting is required for that. I sat at a table in the cabin and wired up 13 receptacle pairs. During the work, Larry came to the door for a visit.

He asked about the mouse situation so I started explaining the mystery I had found. I showed him the mouse fur mess and in the process I discovered a completely clean mouse skull in amongst the fur. This was proof that the trap had killed a mouse so the only thing I could figure out was that carpenter ants had eaten or carried away every bit of the carcass except the fur and the skull. There was no trace of the ants any more, but on previous occasions there had been carpenter ants swarming over some of the mouse carcasses.

I figured that the mouse had been caught soon after I left last time so the ants had three weeks to clean up the carcass. I also figured that the ant bait may have killed off the ants since then so that is why there didn't seem to be any ants around.

I told Larry about the ant bait and the dispenser. I showed it to him and discovered that it was nearly empty.

In the evening I could hear a lot of gnawing in the trailer ceiling right around the light above the table. I still couldn't figure out whether it was mice or ants. The gnawing was pretty loud for most of the night.

On Wednesday, the jays were at the trailer as soon as I got up. I went out and fed them several times while I got my breakfast. I decided the gnawing must be ants because I couldn't see any possible way mice could have gotten in there. I checked to see if I had any ant killer and I didn't. I had a can of wasp and hornet killer so I decided to take down the ceiling light fixture and blast some of that into the ceiling to see if it made a difference.

I couldn't easily get the electrical fixture-mounting box out of the ceiling. I got it loose and pulled it down part way, but it was hung up on something. I think it might have been the wires coming into the box. Rather than mess with it any more, I just blasted a little squirt of the hornet killer in the small crack I had opened up between the box and the ceiling. I closed it back up and figured I'd get some ant spray and do a more complete job of it next week. In the meantime I would see if the hornet killer did anything.

I went up to the cabin, happily found no trace of mouse activity, got a ladder, and did one more inspection of the outside of the trailer, looking even more carefully for any possible way mice could get in there. I found no way.

Then I went to work and wired up and installed the six receptacle outlets in the bedroom. Later, in the afternoon, I decided to fix a bird feeder that I had gotten as a gift but which had a design flaw. The ring at the top of it that it was supposed to hang from, wasn't fastened securely and it just came apart. I figured the only way to fasten it right was to drill and tap a hole in a collar which went around the central shaft, and install a set screw that would pin the collar to the shaft. I found a machine bolt that would work as a set screw, ground a point on it, drilled and tapped the collar and a sleeve, and then fastened it together. I think it will work. Then I filled the feeder and hung it from an anchor hook on the Grid G purlin. The feeder is pretty fancy. It is designed to let small birds eat, but if a bird as big as a Steller's Jay sits on a perch, all the feeding holes close up from the weight of the bird. We'll see what kind of action we get.

I could hear more gnawing in the ceiling during the night again.

On Thursday morning I got the ladder out again and did an even more thorough search on the outside of the trailer and still didn't find any possibility for mouse entry. It had to be ants.

During the night I had thought about the wiring I had done and I realized that I had forgotten to install a green grounding screw in the last box I installed. I took the wiring back out of that box and installed the grounding screw with no problem. Then I closed it back up feeling lucky and happy that I had come to realize my mistake. If I hadn't, I'm sure that would be the one box the electrical inspector would have me open so he could look at it.

I still had some ant bait in the bottle so I used most of it to re-fill the bait dispenser. I left a little in the bottle for possible use in the trailer ceiling, or for some other unanticipated use. I'll have to order another bottle of the stuff.

The weather was pleasant and still so I figured this might be a good time to walk the woods and check on the sequoia trees. It had been a couple of hot months since I had seen them. All the foliage was still on the trees and brush so it was very hard making my way. In fact I only found 16 of the 20 trees. Of these, 3 were dead counting the one by the drainfield. The were all in pretty dry spots in direct sun. Those that were shaded well seemed to be the most healthy. The real test, though, will be to see how they do over winter under the snow. We'll find out in the spring.

The flock of jays found me in the woods a couple times, so I gave them a treat in there. When I got back, Bert and Ernie came around for a visit. They came while I was feeding the birds by the pickup. I ended up feeding peanuts to the birds with my left hand at the same time I was feeding Bert and Ernie dog biscuits with my right hand. The birds were pretty nervy. Usually they leave when the dogs come around.

I left for home at 1:00. When I set the log gate down over the rebar, two little brown frogs crawled up out of the hole in the log as the rebar came up through the hole. I slowed down so I didn't hurt them and let them crawl out and hop away. My gate seems to have some kind of attraction for those little guys.

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