Construction Journal Entry Week of 8/31/08

9/3-5/08 I went up to the property for 3 days: Wednesday through Friday.

I arrived at 12:40 and I walked up the new stairs right away. They look nice and they feel comfortable to walk on, thanks to the rule of 25. I was pleased with how the stairs turned out.

After I moved in and had lunch, I rolled up and put away the long hose we had used and which had been draining since last week. Next, I started hauling form pieces up from the stair site and took all the screws out. I stacked the boards when all the screws were out. Most of the boards will end up being firewood, but there are some nice long planks that were the stringers. They have a lot of cement on them, but they will still be useful for something.

I also disassembled the temporary staircase and stacked the stringers under the back porch. Who knows, I may find yet another use for those stringers.

The gray jay family showed up for peanuts during the work and so did the chipmunk. I was happy to see that his cheek looks much better. The swelling is way down and the fur is growing back. The wound is hardly noticeable now.

On Thursday I finished hauling up, disassembling, and stacking all of the form material. Then I went to work with the shovel and shoveled all but one of the dirt piles up against the higher sides of the staircase. I built the grade up to less than 18 inches from the stairs so that I won't need any handrails at all. I built a rock retaining wall at the deepest part to hold the dirt in place. At the top of the concrete staircase, I built four rock steps to cover the conduit where it went down to depth under the dirt. The dirt piles had been covered with tarps which I folded up and temporarily stored on the lower front steps.

Except for one more dirt pile to shovel over the vaulted conduit up by the building, I was finished with the concrete stair project. I swept the staircase off and took some pictures of it. That is one project that is completely and successfully finished and I was happy to have it done. The chipmunk and gray jays came around again to help me celebrate.

Next I did some re-wiring in the cabin in order to get completely off the temporary power. I plugged the one wire that used to connect to the temporary power into the left kitchen receptacle, which has its own 20 Amp breaker. That way I can use that breaker switch to turn off everything plugged into that circuit instead of using the switch in the crawl space that I used to use. I also went into the bushes and pulled out enough slack in the wire feeding the trailer so that I could unplug it from the temporary pole and plug it into the newly-installed receptacle on the new permanent pole. That finally completely offloaded the temporary pole after thirteen years, one month, and fifteen days of use. It was installed on 7/20/95. That might be some kind of record for temporary power use.

When I went in for the night, I noticed that the tarps that I had stored on the front steps were covered in what looked like sawdust. Since I hadn't done any sawing up there, I knew it must be frass coming out of the big beam at Grid F.5 under the porch. That log had been infested with carpenter ants before and I thought I had gotten rid of them. The frass told me that they were back and I need to deal with them again. It's always something.

On Friday, I pulled some more slack out of the wire feeding the trailer. The wire runs through thick woods and brush and it was covered with a thick layer of duff and fallen branches. I wanted more slack so that the wire wouldn't be a tripping hazard at the base of the power pole. I will eventually replace this wire with the AWG 10 wire that used to supply the cabin. As it is, the wire to the trailer is an AWG 14 which severely limits the amount of power I can use in the trailer.

Next I went to work on that number 10 wire. It is a sunlight resistant 10-2 with ground which was lying on the ground thirteen years ago. Now it was pretty deeply buried in the duff and was hard to pull out. I had dug a shallow trench for the wire where it crossed the driveway so I got the shovel and dug the wire out. It was buried about a foot down and was covered with hard-packed gravel and dirt. A lot of heavy traffic has rolled over that wire over the years. There was a layer of watered down concrete on top from the recent stair project, and deeper down, there was another layer of concrete from the pouring of the footings of the cabin back in 1995. It was not easy digging, but eventually I freed the wire from under the roadway.

Then it was slow and very hard going getting the wire free from the hillside going up to the cabin. Lots of trees and branches had fallen over the wire over the past thirteen years and the hillside is a thick tangle of vine maples, blackberries, and all sorts of other tough brush. It's also so steep that you can hardly stand on it, and the coil of wire I was accumulating got heavier and heavier as I made my way up the hill. But eventually, I freed up the entire length of wire and stored it in the crawlspace until I will use it to hook up the trailer.

The chipmunk, which I have named 'Charlie', since I can now identify him from the wound in his cheek, came by for peanuts when I was finishing up rolling up the wire. His cheek seems to be healing up nicely but I think it will leave a scar.

Next, I measured and inventoried all the pieces of roof paneling I have. The next project will be to fix the roof so I will have to figure out how much more roofing I will need to buy. Before I left for home, I called the PUD and instructed them to discontinue the service to my temporary pole. It's a good feeling to have closed that chapter in this project. I feel good about the new power service. I left for home at 2:30.

9/6-7/08 Paul Hendricks, Kim Miller, nine Boy Scouts, and I went up to the property for a two-day yearly troop planning session on Saturday and Sunday.

We took the troop bus and arrived about noon. The scouts were happy that they had a new staircase to use to carry their equipment up the hill to the cabin. I gave Kim a tour of the property since he hadn't seen it without a deep covering of snow. Bert and Ernie showed up and had a good time with the boys. The gray jays showed up too, but the dogs and the activity of the boys had them a little more shy than usual.

The boys all slept in the cabin, Paul and Kim slept on cots on the porch, and I slept in my trailer. The porch was configured into a kitchen the same as we had done in years past. The planning session was a success. Paul cooked excellent meals for us all.

I had bought an antique "misery whip" two man saw at a garage sale and I asked for advice on how and where to display it in the cabin. Paul and the boys told me how to do it. I hung it over the porch-side living room window. It looks great there.

Since I have had mice in the cabin and have not found out how they got in, and since I had a group of energetic boys up there, I made the offer of $50 to anyone who could find a mouse hole that would let mice into the cabin. One of the boys in particular took up the challenge and after a lot of searching, he found the hole. I gratefully gave him the $43 I had on me and promised to pay him the remaining $7 the next time I saw him.

It turned out that I had inadvertently dislodged one of the triangular screens in the bird block where I had drilled down through the cap log at Grid A1 on 11/15/07. The screen was still in place, so it looked OK, but it was torn loose from the staples so it formed a flap that the mice could just push in from the outside and get in. Without help, it is no telling how long it would have taken me to find that hole. I had inspected those screens so many times that it wouldn't have occurred to me to check that all the staples were still holding tight. I was happy to once again declare victory over the rodents. I just hope it is a long time now before the next skirmish in our perpetual war.

Kim noticed some carpenter ants crawling on the Grid G purlin and pointed them out to me. I got an ant bait trap and screwed it to the purlin. We watched the ants get interested in the bait and then Ken noticed that there were more of them at the end of the purlin. I promptly got three more traps and screwed them at intervals along the purlin. All four traps attracted swarms of ants who, I suppose, took the bait back to their nest where it is supposed to kill the whole colony. We'll see.

Kim also told me that the frass on the tarps was not from carpenter ants but from powderpost beetles. I have had ant baits screwed to that log and I haven't seen a carpenter ant on that log for a long time, yet the frass beneath it accumulates in a matter of hours. I think Kim must be right. I'll have to look into how to deal with powderpost beetles.

On Sunday, there was no sign of ants on the purlin. I think the ant bait worked. The boys did some more of their planning, Paul did some more cooking, and we packed up our gear and left for home at about 1:00. The boys carried some logs up to the upper roadway for me. It was great to have the troop up there again and to put those new stairs to use.

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