Construction Journal Entry Week of 4/19/09

4/21-23/09 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

The drive over was gorgeous. The leaves were just coming out at the lower elevations and the mountains were covered with fresh snow. I arrived at 12:50 and was greeted by Bert and Ernie as usual.

After moving in, I took a clipboard and a yardstick into the woods and checked on the sequoia trees. All eleven of them made it through the winter and looked to be doing fine. All the nylon sleeves were smashed to the ground like accordions and the trees were crumpled inside them. But I straightened them all up and measured each tree and recorded the heights. I also wrote down a grade of bushiness for each one on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is bare and 10 is extremely bushy. The heights ranged from 9 inches to 18 inches and the bushiness ranged from 2 to 7. Now I can track their progress through the years by doing the same thing each spring. While I was in the woods, I cleaned out the springbox.

One lone gray jay found me and took a peanut from my hand. He took only one peanut and then flew a short distance and ate the peanut. Then he came back for one more and did the same thing. After the third peanut, he flew off. Since none of the other gray jays have acted this way, but instead took as many peanuts each time as they could carry, I think this bird is new to the area. I don't know what happened to the usual flock.

I started working in the cabin by sanding the exposed wood in the recesses in the purlins for the fixture boxes, and in the Grid C2 RPSL around the switch box, and the two places where I had accidentally drilled holes through the RPSL. These places were varnished with the first coat last week, and I sanded them now in preparation for the next coat.

It was too hot to work in the loft so I opened all the cabin windows and went down to work in the crawlspace where it was nice and cool. I ran the wires that connect Box D to Box C in circuit number 2. Since I had cut the wire too short on 12/10/08 when I installed Box C, I had to install junction Box M in the floor joists to extend the wire and complete the run.

By the time I finished, it was cooler in the loft so I went back up and installed the loft stair light fixture in the box on the Grid C2 RPSL. It was gratifying to flip the switch on the column and have the light turn on. That light will not only illuminate the staircase, but it also lights up the part of the loft that extends over the kitchen.

Next I bored the hole in the Grid B purlin for the wire to the first of the three loft light fixtures. Before I went in for the night, I carried up to the cabin a nice wooden storage box that Victor and Eileen had given us.

On Wednesday it was a little cooler. The temperature was 55 degrees. I started out by hauling the wooden storage box up into the loft using a rope. Then I went down to the lower roadway and picked up all the old firewood and charcoal that was left in the fire pit the scouts had made. There was quite a bit of it because they had doused the fire while it was still stoked up and burning. Since the weather had been hot and dry for a few days, the wood and charcoal were nice and dry. I carried it all up to the cabin in my firewood carrier and put it all in the wood stove for future use and to keep it dry.

Next I strung the wire and installed the light fixture on the Grid B purlin. In the process I got zapped on the back of my hand with 120 volts when the cut-off end of the Romex cable brushed over it. That really got my attention. My first thought was that I had simply forgotten to turn off the circuit breaker. Since the loft lights are powered by circuit number 4, I turned that breaker off and then tested the wire. It was still hot.

Then I realized that the wire powering these lights comes from Box L and that wire was not even installed yet. Now I was ready to panic. I didn't understand how that wire could be energized. I had been meticulous in labeling every wire and matching up each connection with the diagrams to make sure they were right, I couldn't figure out what was wrong.

After studying the diagrams and doing a little thinking, it dawned on me what had happened. The two switches in Box D are on two different circuits, circuit number 2 and circuit number 4. Those two switches are in the same switch device and what I had forgotten was that the common terminals on that device are connected with a detachable bus bar.

What a relief. I turned off the breakers for circuit number 2 and circuit number 4 (just for drill), took the switch out of Box D, and broke off the tab. That fixed the problem and I went back to work. I bored the holes, strung the wires, and installed the boxes and fixtures for the remaining two fixtures in the Ridgepole and the Grid D purlin before lunch.

After lunch, I was awakened from my nap by the sound of voices. Larry and Niek Arentsen, a friend of Larry's granddaughter, had come over for a visit. Niek is from Holland, but he speaks English as fluently as I do. He also speaks a few other languages as well.

Niek was interested in the entire project as well as the geology of the place so we did the grand tour. We even took the trail, such as it is, through the sequoia trees. Niek inspected each little tree. Since I hadn't completely cleared a trail, the going got pretty tough toward the end. Larry even bushwhacked some new trails through the brush. The leaves aren't out yet, but the tangle of vine maples and fallen trees makes the going pretty tough.

While we were in the woods, that single gray jay showed up again and Niek fed him one peanut. I fed him a single peanut too on a couple occasions.

When they left, I went back to work to finish up the wiring. All that was left was to connect the loft lights to Box L. When I strung the wire that I had installed in Box D for this purpose I discovered that it was a foot or two short. Thoughts of Brian Kemly immediately came to mind. He had advised me that cutting the wires too long is much better than cutting them too short.

Fortunately, I was able to cut some new and different holes in the floor joists and reroute the wire so that it was plenty long enough to reach Box L. I took the wires and switches out of Box L and hooked up the new wire. Then I put it all back together and tested all the loft lights and switches. It was very gratifying to have everything work properly. I can now retire a few more extension cords.

I was tired and happy as I started work on cleaning up the place. I started by picking up tools and putting them away. I didn't quite finish that before I quit for the day.

On Thursday morning it was about 33 degrees out. It was pretty chilly in the cabin so I decided to burn up the charcoal and wood I had put in the stove. I picked up a few handfuls of chips and sawdust from the floor, that had come from all the holes I had chiseled and drilled in the logs, and put it in the stove with the charcoal. It took right off and burned when I lit it and it warmed the place up in just a few minutes.

I finished putting away all the tools and cleaned up all the chips and sawdust from the loft floor. Then I varnished all the parts that needed a second coat and went in for lunch. Bert and Ernie came around for another dog biscuit treat. I had lunch and left for home at 1:15 happy with my progress and thinking about the next projects of chinking the loft and building the loft staircase.

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