Construction Journal Entry Week of 10/5/08

10/7-9/08 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

On the way up, I stopped at Doug's RV in Startup and bought a new gas water heater for the trailer. It rained most of the way over and there was mixed rain and snow at the pass. The leaves were beautiful, but wet. There was snow about halfway down Dirtyface and about halfway down Nason Ridge. I arrived at about 1:00 and was greeted by Bert and Ernie as usual.

After lunch, I went to work installing the new water heater in the pouring rain. I had a raincoat on, but my pants got pretty wet since I was working right under the eaves of the snow shelter while I was outside. Fortunately, most of the work was inside the trailer. Once I got the heater in the hole from the outside and fastened, the rest of the work was on the gas line and the water pipes which are inside. It was slow, tedious work, but I had the job done in time to heat water in time to wash up for dinner.

On Wednesday morning, I heard a very loud crash in the woods. It sounded like a big tree had just fallen. There was no wind, so as soon as the noise of the crash died out, it was super quiet. I decided to walk the trails to see if I could see the fallen tree. While I was there, I decided to do some trail maintenance, so I spent quite a bit of time pruning back the vine maples that were growing over the trails. I walked all the trails and even went over to check on Little Tree and the giant sequoia that I had planted near it. I never did see any sign of a newly fallen tree. I think it must have been a really big tree quite a ways away.

I was puzzled by the sequoia tree. Somehow it had gotten out of its protective nylon sleeve. The sleeve was still pinned to the ground with two bamboo sticks, but it was six or eight inches away from the tree, which looked healthy enough. I could understand a bear or other animal moving the sleeve, but I couldn't understand how the bamboo sticks got shoved back into the ground. I'll probably never know. I left the sleeve off the tree because I think the tree might winter better without it. We'll see how it looks in the spring.

The gray jays found me in the woods and I fed them some peanuts. When I got back to the cabin, Charlie the chipmunk greeted me and got his share of peanuts too.

It was finally time to get started on the major job facing me: fixing the roof. I got my lineman's belt out and a long 3/4" rope. I decided I needed a second rope over the roof since I had to work on both ends of the big roof. I wasn't sure exactly how to get up on the roof. All the other times I have been up there, I either walked up the walkway I built which went right up to the roof, or I walked on the snow bridge that builds up on the east corner in the winter time.

I was just checking out the possibility of getting up on the east corner directly from the rock cliff when Larry stopped by for a visit. We went inside and had a nice visit. I told him the story of how we had built the concrete staircase which he had just walked up. We also talked about how I was going to go about working up on the roof. I worried about how to set a ladder up against the eaves without damaging the roof panels, which stick out about two inches beyond the fascia. Larry thought it would be plenty strong to support the ladder without bending. After thinking about it, I realized that he was probably right.

After Larry left, I decided not to climb up from the rocks but to use a ladder instead. I set up the 20 ft. extension ladder in the middle of the eave. The ladder just fit between a pair of standing ribs so the metal it was resting on was about as strong as it could be. It wouldn't be damaged by the ladder at all. To make the ladder more stable, I lashed it to the Grid G2 PSL.

Before I went up onto the roof, I tested the soles of a pair of tennis shoes I had, and also my Denali street shoes, to see what the traction on the roof was like. I also had a wet towel which I used to wipe down the roof. It turned out that I had good traction with the Denalis without wiping down the roof as long as I didn't step on the fir needles which were pretty thick up there.

Once everything was ready and rigged, and I had my confidence up, I climbed up the ladder, hooked my lineman's belt to the safety rope, and stepped onto the roof. Then I did my "Batman's walk" up the roof, sliding my connection to the safety rope as I went, and pulling up a light rope, which was tied to the big 3/4" rope on the ground. When I got to the ridge, I pulled the big rope up and fed one end down the other side of the roof to the ground.

Then I did my "Batman walk" backward back down to the ladder and gingerly climbed back down to the ground. I felt completely safe during the whole process so my confidence was restored. I don't dread working up there quite so much any more.

I went around to the back of the cabin and tied the end of the second safety rope to a tree. Then I got my drill and, using the second safety rope, went back up on the roof and took out all the screws on the three panels that had slipped on the northeast side. These panels had only slipped a couple feet so my plan was to start with them rather than the big 18 footers.

The first approach was to see whether I could beat the panels back into place. I got a short 2x4 and a big hammer and tried beating them back. They didn't budge at all so I gave up on that idea. I decided to trim them off at the eave line, fasten them down where they are, and patch new pieces over the tops of them. That's the same thing I will do with the big ones on the other side of the roof.

I spent the rest of the afternoon figuring out how to bend the panel pieces so that they will nest inside the panels that they will overlap. Curt had advised me to make the upper panel narrower, rather than try to widen the lower panel. The main reason for that is that the work can be done on the ground rather than up on the roof.

I had previously made a make-shift brake for bending sheet metal and I had it up at the cabin. It is a long piece of angle iron loosely connected to a long piece of aluminum extrusion that has a 45 degree angle in cross section. By clamping these two together with vise-grips and with the metal to be bent sandwiched between them, the metal can be bent by pressing, or beating it over either the angle iron or the aluminum extrusion. I also made two bars of steel about 9 inches long, 1/4 inches thick, and an inch and a half wide. I used these to flatten sheet metal by again making a sandwich of these two bars with the sheet metal between them, and then incrementally and alternately squeezing the sandwich with two vise-grips.

After trying several approaches, I finally figured out an effective way to bend the metal the way I needed to. I made two of the three pieces I need for that end of the roof. When I have the technique perfected, I'll be ready to work on the big 18 footers.

In the evening, it felt like I had a cold coming on, so I started a regimen of Zicam when I went to bed.

On Thursday morning, Bert and Ernie greeted me before I had breakfast. I fed them each a pig's ear and then fixed my breakfast. I went up to the cabin to work, and no sooner got there than Earl showed up. It was good to see him. He noticed my new stairs and had walked up them. We had a nice visit in the cabin. It was a little chilly, so I burned some cardboard in the stove and it warmed right up. I was happy to see that Earl is doing pretty well. He said he had even been working with a chainsaw. He will be leaving for the south for the winter in a few weeks.

After Earl left, I noticed that one of the ant bait cartridges had been chewed open. I checked the others and found that eight of nine cartridges had been chewed through and the bait inside had all been eaten. I am sure it is the packrats who did it and it explains why I found ant bait cartridges in their nests. I had screwed all nine of these cartridges down so the packrats couldn't run off with them, so they had to chew them open where they were. I cut the ninth one open to see what it looked like inside. The bait looks sort of like brown wax, but not quite as soft as peanut butter. There is a dollop about the size of a quarter inside. Evidently it must taste good, not only to ants, but to packrats too. They had licked all eight cartridges clean. I'm wondering if the poison will kill the packrats or at least make them sick. Judging by the turds they leave on the porch, it seems that there are still just as many of them around. Anyway, I'll have to make packrat-proof screen covers for the cartridges from now on. These packrat skirmishes sure do take some unpredictable twists and turns.

Finally, getting back to work, I trimmed the three panels off even with the eave line. It's a little tricky cutting them with only a right-hand snips, but I gradually figured out the technique. There is a fourth panel that slipped a half inch but I didn't take the screws out of the top of it. I think that if I take those screws out, I can beat that panel back the half inch. I've done that before and it works. I put the ladder and my tools away, had lunch, and left for home at 1:50. The drive back home was absolutely gorgeous with the brilliant leaves and the new snow on the tops of the mountains.

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