Construction Journal Entry Week of 5/10/09

5/12-14/09 I went up to the property foe 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

It snowed lightly in the pass as I went over. I arrived at the property at 11:40. Bert and Ernie were there promptly to greet me and get their treats. After moving in, I decided to dewinterize the trailer. This should have been a quick easy job, and it was, but there was one unwelcome surprise. This was the first time I had dewinterized with the new water heater and it is a little different from the old one. Instead of having a drain valve, it has a corrosion preventive element that also serves as the tank's only plug. To drain the tank, you have to take out this plug, which is rather awkward. You can't get at it easily without a big socket wrench, which I don't have. Instead of a socket, I use two big crescent wrenches so I can get behind the gas burner.

Using my usual sequence of steps, I connected the trailer plumbing to the water supply, drained the faucets, switched the heater bypass valves back, and then went to drain the water heater tank. What I didn't realize was that the air trapped in the tank was now pressurized equal to my supply pressure, so as soon as the plug was unscrewed enough to come out, it came out in a sudden blast of pressurized water which hit me right in my right thigh. It was a powerful 3/4" stream shooting straight out.

By the time I jumped away, I was soaked. I learned that I will either have to change my procedure, or stand out of the way. I think I'll change the procedure.

One lone gray jay showed up for peanuts, and it evidently was the same one as before. He just took one peanut at a time and went a short distance away to eat each one. I miss the old flock, but it is good to see this one. I like having those birds around.

I had my lunch and a short nap. Then I put my work clothes on and went to work while my traveling clothes were drying. I went up to the cabin and built a fire in the stove, and then I drove the truck up to the cabin and unloaded six 60-lb sacks of mortar mix that I had brought with me. I also unloaded the packrat trap so I could set it on the porch again.

After backing the truck back down to the trailer, I walked the lower trail loop and checked on some of the sequoia trees, especially the new one, which I named "Dan". The trees I checked all looked good. I did some trail maintenance and then went back and set the trap for the packrats and went in for the night. Bert and Ernie came by one more time for biscuits before I went in.

On Wednesday the trap was still set and the bait was untouched. That was a puzzle that I didn't know how to interpret.

I set up the batch plant on the front porch for mixing mortar and then spent the day mixing mortar and chinking the seams in the top of the gable wall in the loft. It was fun and easy because I didn't have to figure anything out. My measurement scheme gave me perfect mortar with each batch and using a hawk made the chinking less messy and quicker than without it. By the end of the day, I had the top six seams in the wall chinked.

It rained most of the day, but it was pleasant working inside. I had built a small fire in the stove and it made the temperature in the loft perfect for working up there. Bert and Ernie came by once during the work, but I didn't take the time off to give them biscuits. Timing is everything.

I set the trap again before I went in for the night, wondering what I would find in the morning.

On Thursday morning, there was a little new snow on the ground that had fallen overnight but it was raining and the snow quickly disappeared. When I went up to the cabin, I saw that the trap had sprung. I eagerly looked in and saw either a mouse or a very small packrat.

I built a fire in the stove, went with Bert and Ernie down to the trailer for their dog biscuit treat, and then went back up and bound up the trap with bungee cords so I could turn it over and see what I had caught. It was definitely a mouse and not a small packrat. The poor little guy was pretty cold and was huddled in a little furry ball. I let him go and he went down under the porch. What I think must be going on is that there was only one packrat living under my porch and now that he is gone, the mice have free run of the place. I think packrats keep the mice away because in my experience of evicting the rodents from the cabin, I have never seen evidence of both animals at once. I didn't see evidence of mice in the cabin until after I had plugged all the holes big enough to admit packrats. After that, I had to find all the smaller holes. The same with the porch. I never see mouse scat even though there was always packrat scat around. From now on, I'll set the trap each night anyway, just to confirm or disprove my theory.

I spent the rest of the morning cleaning the logs around the newly chinked seams. First I used a metal scraper to knock off the big chunks of mortar and scrape what I could right next to the mortar seam. Then I used a combination of a damp towel and a dry towel to scrub the varnished wood clean. Since the mortar was still green, it wasn't too tough to scrub off, and since I had been pretty neat doing the job in the first place, it was relatively easy to clean up the logs. They looked beautiful and shiny when I was done. Now that I am nearing the end of the chinking job, I am getting pretty good at it. That's the way a lot of these jobs have turned out. I left for home at 1:30.

5/15/09 I made 12 copper name tags for the sequoia trees by soldering copper letters to copper plates. The letters were made from AWG 12 copper wire and the plates were made from split pieces of 3/4" copper tube that had been flattened out. The results looked pretty good to me. I took a picture of the tags.

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