Construction Journal Entry Week of 7/21/19

7/23-25/19 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

On the way I stopped and visited with Earl and Pam, who just happened to be there. Then I proceeded on to Camp Serendipity. I arrived at 1:30. The weather was very hot. I brought most of my gear up to the cabin, hoisted the flag, had my lunch, and a short nap. When I got up, I went into the woods armed with a few ideas I had gotten from YouTube that I was hoping might help me get that ram pump working. One of the ideas was that the pump should be solidly anchored so that the kinetic energy of the water hammer all goes into increasing the pressure rather than causing the pump to jump around. To achieve that, I carried a concrete block up to the pump site in my trusty Trapper Nelson backpack.

Another tip from YouTube was to make sure no air was getting into the supply pipe. I checked the strainer end of my pipe and found that it was sucking in air. I pushed it down deeper in the creek bed and built up the dam below it a little. I got it to stop sucking air, but I can see that I need to bring a shovel up there and really re-enforce the dam.

Then I tried in vain to get the pump going and finally gave up. When I tried anchoring the pump with the concrete block, it pressed it down into the creek bed so that the waste valve was nearly submerged. That wouldn't have been a problem, but it made it difficult for me to make any adjustments to the valve. I ended up setting the concrete block aside. During the times the pump was working, I could see that it didn't jump around at all. I think the fact that to do so would have meant jerking that 40-foot copper pipe around and it was just too massive. I figured it was steady enough.

I also tried replacing the 3/4" waste valve with a 1" valve. Instead of a swing valve, the 1" valve was a plunger type from which I had removed the spring. The question was whether the plunger was heavy enough to open by gravity after it had been slammed shut by the water hammer. It wasn't. I put the old Mod 2 spring assist back on and sort of got the pump going.

I thought I had the pump working because it cycled more than 200 times before I left it alone and went over the hill to check on Andrew. When I got there, there was no water coming out of the hose. I waited a while to see if it just hadn't shown up yet and then finally gave up. Hoping that the pump was still going, and the water would start flowing later, I went back to the cabin to get some work done.

On Wednesday, I checked on Andrew right after breakfast and discovered that the bucket was completely dry, so the pump hadn't kept going. I went over the hill to the pump, primed it a few times and sort of got it going, but it wouldn't keep running. I decided to spend no more time on the pump this week and just irrigate Andrew by hand. I carried 4 gallons of water up and filled the dribble bucket. My plan for the pump is to make a fairly elaborate gravity assisted waste valve like I had seen on one YouTube video using the 1" check valve. I'll do that when I am home in Seattle.

While I was in the woods, I rolled all the big firewood rounds a little farther down the hill so that they are now all positioned right at the wheelbarrow station ready to be wheeled to the cabin. Unfortunately, the logging activity had torn up that wheelbarrow run so that it is going to take a little work to get it back into shape so it can handle a wheelbarrow. That will wait for a while.

Next, I took the wheelbarrow down to the truck and used it to unload a big bunch of yard waste I had brought with me and which I stacked on the compost pile. While I was down there, I noticed a few thistles so I dug them up before they could go to seed.

Then, back up at the cabin, I stained all of the new rails and the newel post on the back staircase. I also sanded and stained the outside rail on the front staircase. That had been stained once before, but the sun and snow had damaged it enough so that it needed another coat of stain.

After having my lunch and my usual nap, I went up to Andrew to see whether the bucket had been emptied as a result of the dribble. It had only gone down by a gallon or two, so I topped it off.

Next, I went into the crawlspace and fabricated a bunch of clips Ellen wanted for holding the picnic tablecloth down on the table for the upcoming family reunion. I made them from stiff wire pieces that I cut from a leftover scrap of K-web.

Shortly after I finished with that, Robert showed up. He had come to do some maintenance work on his loader, and he gassed up his dump truck which he is planning to use soon. We had a nice visit and caught up on things. He also gave me some advice on what to do on the loft staircase.

On Thursday morning, Dave called, and we had another great conversation. He gave me some good ideas about what to do for newel posts on the loft staircase. Now that all the outside railing systems are done, my attention is being turned to the many problems involved in designing the railings for the loft staircase.

The major question I am facing is whether to replace the lowest tread on the staircase with a wider one. A wider one could accommodate the support for the newel posts, which I would prefer rather than anchoring the posts to the floor. What I would really like would be a ring of balusters forming the newel post, anchored on the end of the tread and topped with a volute.

Dave suggested having a welder weld the balusters to a steel ring which would then be screwed to the tread. I really like that idea and I pretty much decided to bite the bullet and replace the first tread. Robert had suggested the same thing the day before, but at that point I was still undecided.

After I hung up with Dave, I felt energized and excited. This has happened many times before on this project. I am faced with a tough problem with a bunch of messy, or questionable, or distasteful options, and I stew about it, sometimes for years, before I finally decide on my strategy. But once I do, I feel a sense of relief and almost exhilaration that I can quit stewing and start working. That's what happened this morning.

I went into the woods and carried 5 gallons of water up to Andrew and filled up the dribble bucket. Then I came back to the cabin and began searching for a slab that would make a longer tread for the loft staircase. It didn't take me long to find it. It was 10 feet long and stored, along with another 10-footer way under the front porch.

I used a stout rope, and a few levers, to maneuver it over the rocks, and around the Grid F2 column and drag it out from under the porch. Then I decided to cut it down from 10 feet to about 6 feet before I lifted it up onto the front porch where I will work on it.

I tried to use the chainsaw to do the cutting, but first I needed to tighten up the starter rope. That's a small chore, but I did it. Then I tried in vain to start the saw. The starter rope slipped out again and instead of tightening it up a second time, I gave up and decided to use a Sawzall instead.

It didn't take long to cut through the slab with the Sawzall, and once I did, I used the porch crane to lift the 6-foot tread blank up onto the sawhorses on the porch deck. After putting the crane away, I went up to the old privy and got the jig that I had made for sawing the notches in the stair treads. It felt really good to be back making a tread using my old familiar techniques.

When I had been down at the truck, I noticed that the blackberries were starting to ripen. I spent a half-hour or so and harvested as many black berries as I could find. I got quite a bunch of them. I left for home at 12:50, happy about the staircase projects and with renewed hope that I can get the ram pump working reliably.

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