Construction Journal for 1994, Part 1 of 3

1/7-8/94 I went up to the property after Russian class and worked Friday afternoon and Saturday mostly on excavation. I now have a cut 11 feet wide that is almost at grade all the way back to the solid rock wall. The wall has a nice ledge on it that I think will be a suitable footing for the foundation wall along the back. The ledge slopes away from the building so it will nicely carry the surface water around and away from the building.

After watching the price of logs climb, Ellen and I have reconsidered using trees from the property as a source of building logs. On this trip, I intended to begin an inventory of trees on the property to see if this plan is feasible. I found that the snow conditions were so bad that I postponed this project until I can get around the property better. The snow was knee, or thigh deep and very wet. I tried getting around on skis and with boots and neither worked very well. I will do an inventory later and concentrate on excavation which is going very well.

Jon and Kathy Ostrove stopped by and visited me Friday evening. There was about a foot of new snow and I shoveled out enough parking space for the pickup and for Jon and Kathy. That took about an hour and a half.

The propane tanks were down to about an eighth full but I decided to leave them for another trip. I hope I don't run out too soon.

1/14-15/94 I went up to the property after class again and spent one night. The temperature was above freezing, so when I went up to the spring to get water, I decided to try to reestablish the siphon and get the hose running again. I poured water into the end of the hose and got the siphon going, but it didn't seem to be very strong. I figured that there was still some ice in the hose, but the flowing water should soon melt it away.

When I got back down to the trailer, I checked on the hose and found that there was only a small dribble of water coming out. I took off the nozzle to see if that was where it was clogged up and sure enough it was. There was a larva or nymph or something jammed in the nozzle and that was what had stopped the hose. Of course once the water stopped flowing, the hose froze up in the cold weather.

The animal was about an inch and a half to two inches long and although dead, was still in pretty good shape for having been jammed in the nozzle like that. I took it to the Lake Wenatchee Ranger Station and had a biologist, Mike Rickle, look at it. His initial reaction was that it might be a caddisfly larva but he kept the specimen in order to study it further. He promised to call me later when he found out something more specific. The important thing for me is to figure out how to eradicate them from, and keep them out of the spring. I have also been thinking about making a tighter fit between the screen and the outlet pipe. This animal must have gotten into the hose by going between the concrete wall and the screen because the mesh on the screen is too fine to let him pass through the screen.

Even though it rained off and on all day Saturday, I made good progress at the excavation and road building.

The propane lasted up to the end but they felt very empty when I took them home to refill them.

1/21-22/94 I went up to the property for one night after Russian class. When I got there, the hose was running, but slowly. I took the nozzle off, but there was no obstruction in it. Since I didn't know why it was running slowly, I didn't want to drink the water coming out of it, so I took my jugs up to the spring to fill them. The water was running fine up there and also at the first hose joint.

I called Mike Rickle at the Ranger Station and he said he hadn't had time to look at the caddisfly larva specimen any further. He said that by mid-summer, all the eggs and larvae in the spring should either be dead or hatched into adult flies, and since adults can't get into the spring to lay more eggs, I shouldn't have any more in there after that.

I spent the rest of the day, and the next morning excavating and road building. After lunch, I followed the hose from top to bottom to see what the trouble was. I found plenty. For one thing, a three foot section of the hose had been punctured and it looked like a fountain; water was spraying everywhere for about a ten food diameter. It looked to me as if the hose had been bitten by an animal, maybe a dog. All the punctures were on the top side of the hose. Some of them were round holes like a nail hole while others were short gashes about a quarter of an inch long.

Another problem was that at at least a dozen places, fallen branches or living vine maple saplings were lying across the hose and the weight of the sagging, melting snow has caused the branches to pinch the hose almost tight. I am sure this was the cause of the slow flow. I removed all these branches as I worked my way down the hose. When I got to the bottom, the water wasn't flowing, so I took the nozzle off and found another big caddisfly larva. This specimen was in excellent shape although it too was dead.

Since it was clear to me that the hose cannot stand up to the winter snowpack, and since the weather was warm and there wasn't more than a foot of snow on the ground in most places, this was the ideal time to take up the hose. So, I spent about an hour and a half coiling up the hose and taking it down to the trailer. This means that during the winter I will have to carry water from the spring in jugs, but that is not so bad.

After taking in the hose, I spent another hour and a half excavating and road building. I was pleased with the progress. It looks now like I am almost half done with the excavation.

1/28-30/94 I went up to the property after Russian class on Friday. Ellen came up and joined me that night at about midnight and we stayed until Sunday morning. She had quite a harrowing drive up over the pass.

Friday afternoon, I rigged the bipod and lifted the lid off the springbox. I made a screen trap for the spillway and then opened the cleanout cap and let the box drain until the next day. I figured that if there was a population of caddisfly larvae in the spring I would catch them in the screen trap. I didn't get any, which I interpreted to mean that those two that I got from the hose may have been all that were in there. I took the stainless steel screen out of the springbox and put the lid back on. That evening, before Ellen arrived, I fastened the stainless screen to a brass sleeve that fits tightly in the outlet pipe. This new screen arrangement will not allow anything as big as an ant, much less a caddisfly larva, to pass through.

I also made quite a bit of progress excavating Friday afternoon. There had been no new snow since January 7, and the old snow had melted away quite a bit so it made excavating very easy.

On Saturday, Ellen and I removed the springbox lid again, installed the new screen assembly, and replaced the cleanout cap. As soon as the cap was on, we sloshed two gallons of bleach into the springbox. The idea was that by letting the springbox drain overnight, the level of water in the surrounding gravel seam would be as low as the cleanout pipe. This way it would take a long time for the water level to rise up to the overflow pipe because it would have to refill the gravel seam also, and this would give more time for the bleach to find its way down into the gravel and do its work. We timed it, and it took about five minutes for the water to rise up and begin running out the overflow pipe, and it took about 11 minutes to reach its full discharge volume. By contrast, if you just drain the springbox and replace the cap right away, the water level and flow are restored in just ten seconds or so.

We didn't do any more work on this weekend; we just explored the property, did some walking, reading, relaxing, and just had fun.

2/4-5/94 I went up to the property on Friday after class and spent one night. There was still no new snow, and the temperature was around 25 degrees during the daytime. It was perfect for excavating, and that was all I did for a day and a half. The propane tanks were down to one quarter when I left.

2/18-19/94 I went up again Friday after class. There was about six inches of heavy wet snow on the ground. I didn't have to shovel out the parking space in order to get the pickup parked, but I did have to shovel snow off the area of the roadway where I dump the dirt and also off the area where I was excavating. I got quite a bit of excavation done and I took the propane tanks home to refill them.

2/25-26/94 I went back up again Friday after class. It was snowing on the way up and there was compact snow on the road from Gold Bar on. Consequently, the trip took an hour longer than usual. It also took another hour to dig a parking place for the pickup. There was about two feet of new snow on the ground. I lost more time breaking trails to the trailer, building site, privy, and spring. To make the trails, I used a scoop shovel. I used it sort of like a snowshoe with one foot and I tied a short rope to the handle so I could control the way the shovel was pointing. This worked pretty well and in one pass, I ended up with a nice wide trail that was about knee deep.

I didn't get much digging done on Friday because of lack of time, but on Saturday I got quite a bit done. Mike Tutino, and his son Mike Jr., came by and had me sign a thing that will get fire protection for our properties.

3/16-18/94 I skipped going up to the property for two weekends because I was sick. This trip for three days was during Spring Break from the University.

There had been a lot of new snow during the previous two weeks, but it had melted and settled enough so that I was able to get the pickup into the parking space without having to shovel it at all. I made a lot of progress excavating and I also enlarged the roadway in the hairpin turn so that the turn can be made even with the trailer situated where it is.

In November of 93 when Wayne Rayfield dug the septic test holes, he got his tractor up to the building site by knocking down part of the rock wall I had built that was part of the roadway. Since the hairpin turn was still not drivable, he made a shortcut roadway straight up the hill from the trailer.

I made the decision to repair the rock wall and fix the hairpin turn so that he could get his tractor up the hill and I could repair the rock wall. I needed to do this so I had a place to dump all the dirt I was excavating.

When I filled my water jugs at the spring, I unscrewed the overflow pipe and dumped it out to see what was in it. The pipe has a screen covering the output end to prevent bugs and other animals from entering the springbox. When I dumped it out, I found one caddisfly larva. This means they are still in there, and, according to Mike Rickle, the Ranger, I should expect to find them until mid summer. The new screen over the service pipe, of course, prevents them from getting into my water jugs.

3/21-24/94 This week was also part of Spring Break so I took advantage of it and spent four days working at the property.

There was only a small layer of new snow, so I had no problem parking the pickup without doing any shoveling. When I got water, I found two caddisfly larvae in the overflow pipe.

I made a lot of progress excavating. It looks like the excavation is about two thirds finished. My rock pile is over six feet high and looks like a castle. I have been laying the walls up so they are vertical so that the pile will hold more. I am still running out of room for rock. All the excavated area around the rock pile is covered by the big rocks that I can't lift and they are stacked up against one another.

I repaired the rock wall on the roadway and began to backfill it. On Thursday I moved the biggest rock that was on the building site down about 8 feet. I intend to move this rock to a low spot on the edge of the rock cliff just below the building site. This will build up that spot to make the cliff edge more level. I used a single come-along chained to trees to pull the rock. It moved pretty easily so I should have no trouble getting it to where I want it.

I have been happy to discover as I have been digging that there is a solid rock ledge or bench all along where the back wall of the building will be. The ledge is about three feet wide and slopes back into the rock which then rises almost vertically. I intend to lay up the back wall of the foundation directly on this ledge. The back of the ledge, then, will form the channel which will carry water around and away from the building. I have about twenty feet of this ledge exposed at this point.

4/1-2/94 I went up Friday after class again and spent one night at the trailer. I found one caddisfly larva in the overflow pipe.

Since the snow was almost gone, and the leaves and bugs were still not out, I decided it was a good time to string the hose from the spring down to the trailer. I just leave it running into the creek behind the trailer and I get my water from it now. It doesn't seem to me that it is running at full volume - it takes 27 seconds to fill a gallon jug. There may be some obstruction in the hose; I will have to figure out how to diagnose the problem.

I rigged up the electric winch to pull the big rock down off the building site and after maxing out the winch, the rock still wouldn't budge. I will have to figure out some other rigging.

I did some more digging, made some more progress on the excavation, and did some more building on the road retaining wall including moving a fairly huge rock from the other side of the road. I wasn't sure I would be able to move this rock and if not, I would have a hard time making the roadway wide enough. Now that it is moved, the roadway will be plenty wide.

4/9-10/94 Aziza was sick, so instead of going up after class on Friday, I went up Saturday and Sunday. There were no caddisfly larvae in the overflow pipe.

On Saturday I spent the morning rigging up a six-way block and tackle with the electric winch pulling the free end, in order to move the big rock. After lunch I started pulling the rock, and by 7:00 PM I had it moved off the building site. It still isn't where I want it but it is out of the way and it is perched on the top of a slope so it shouldn't be too hard to get it down where I want it later. Leaving it where it is also gives me the option of using it in the foundation.

On Sunday I began excavating under where the rock had been and I started building a second rock pile. My work was accompanied by about 10 baby chipmunks who were running all around me all day. I set out a few peanuts for them, but they ignored them.

4/15-16/94 I went up after class on Friday and spent one night. There was one caddisfly larva in the overflow pipe.

I spent both days excavating and road building. I got quite a bit done. I expected to see the chipmunks again but I didn't see a one.

4/22-23/94 I went up after class on Friday and spent one night. There were no caddisfly larvae in the overflow pipe.

I spent both days excavating and road building and got quite a bit done. I saw a couple of chipmunks, some squirrels, and even a mouse. I heard the mouse playing on the roof of the trailer at night so I opened one of the ceiling vents. In a few seconds, he jumped down into it on the screen and looked at me for a while. Then he jumped back out but in a few minutes, he came back and checked me out again. Then I shut the vent and went back to bed.

4/29-5/1/94 I went up to the property after class. There were no caddisfly larvae in the overflow pipe. My arms were hurting more than usual from digging the previous week, so I decided to skip a week of digging to let them heal. Instead, I weighed the springbox lid and inventoried trees.

The lid weighs 580 lb. I hung ID tags on 38 trees that I intend to cut for use in the cabin. I measured the circumference of each of them and I measured the height of about 20 of them. I measure the height using a little machine I built.

To measure a tree, I first chose a site some distance from the tree where I can see the top of the tree and also where it is fairly easy to measure the distance to the tree.

From this site, I use my little machine. It looks sort of like a cockeyed "T" with a big dial in the center. The top of the "T" has two sighting nails that I aim at the top of the tree where I think it is 8" in diameter. The pine needles are 7" long, so I choose a spot on the trunk where it looks to be about the same size as the clumps of pine needles.

While I am sighting the top of the tree, I hold open a clothespin that is screwed onto the upright stick of the "T". This allows the dial, which is actually a pendulum pivoting on its center, to swing freely. When the dial quits swinging, I gently release the clothespin and it locks the dial into place. Then I simply read the azimuth directly off the dial.

While I was measuring trees, I nearly stepped on a grouse's nest. She let out an awful cry, and I thought I had smashed her nest, but later I learned that the nest and it's eggs were OK and the hen returned to it.

While I was having lunch, a van load of oriental people stopped and began picking fern shoots from our property. I talked to them and found out how they use the shoots. They boil them, sun dry them, and keep them until they want to use them. Then they boil them again and fix them with beef. They said they taste something like asparagus. When they left, I picked a whole bag full myself.

While I was packing up to leave on Saturday, Ellen called and said she was coming up to spend the night. That was a welcome change of plans for me. While I waited for her to show up, I fixed my dinner and then boiled the ferns. They filled the trailer with an unusual odor. When they were boiled, I put them out in the sun to dry. There were only a couple hours of sunlight left so they weren't dry by the time Ellen arrived so I put them in a sack and brought them in.

On Sunday morning, I put the ferns back out in the sun and Ellen and I went for a hike on the Raging Creek Trail. When we got back, the ferns were dried out, shriveled up, and black. The smell of the things was pretty persistent and since neither of us liked it very much, we decided to throw them away and leave them for the oriental people.

5/3/94 I built a spread-sheet to record the tree information I had collected, and also to calculate how these trees could meet the needs of the cabin.

5/6-7/94 I went up Friday after class, again. There were no caddisfly larvae in the overflow pipe. My arms were still hurting (I think I have golfer's elbow) so I didn't do any digging but instead I spent the whole time inventorying trees. I finished measuring all the ones I had tagged last week, and then tagged and measured nine more that looked like good candidates to use. In total, I have tagged and measured 47 trees.

The mother grouse was sitting on her nest when I looked and I took a couple more pictures of her. I plan to check in on her only once a week and maybe get a picture of the chicks when they are hatched.

5/8/94 I added all the new tree measurement to my "TREES" spreadsheet. The spreadsheet has a column called "WALL USE?" which contains a 1 if the log is planned for use in the walls or a 0 if not. I used this field to eliminate the trees that are too small or otherwise can't be used in the wall. From the remaining trees, the total wall area available is 2135 square feet.

The spreadsheet also calculates the total wall area in the cabin design, and with the "guessed at" values for a 30x30 cabin, the wall area is 1795 sq. ft.

This tells me that I am in the ballpark and I should be able to find enough trees to build the cabin. I may not, however, have enough to use logs for joists and rafters.

5/13-14/94 On Friday the 13th (!) I went up as usual after Russian class. There were no caddisfly larvae in the overflow pipe. My arms still hurt so instead of digging, I decided to see what I could salvage from some fallen trees on the property.

A big maple log was very rotten, and a big fir was starting to go so I left them. I spent most of the time working on a big tree that I think is a Douglas Fir but I'm not sure. I peeled the bark off of 72 feet of the trunk, cut a 32 foot log, 8 inches in diameter at one end and about 14 inches in diameter at the other end. There was still 38 feet of log at the butt end. I cut an 11 foot log from this and marked it to make three three-inch planks. I cut the slab away and the first plank. It took about 20 minutes to cut the slab and about 45 minutes to cut the plank.

I spent a lot of time on the phone with Dave, Ellen, and Paula - tense situation.

The grouse was still setting on her nest and I took another picture. I also took six or eight pictures of a small deer that was visiting the building site.

5/20-21/94 Same routine Friday after class. No caddisfly larvae, and my arms still hurt.

I cut the remaining two 3-inch planks from the 11 foot log and dragged them to near the building site. Then I limbed, dragged out, and peeled the top of the tree from where it was cut at the 8-inch diameter to where it is about 3 inches in diameter. This log is 25 feet long. The rest of the time, I resumed excavation, but I took it more easy so as not to hurt my arms any more.

The grouse was still setting on her nest when I checked. Once, when I came out of the trailer, a spotted owl swooped down and landed in a tree above me. I took four pictures of him (her). The owl then flew down into the woods behind the trailer - absolutely silently. In the meantime, the squirrels gave an excited distress call I had never heard before, and then they all disappeared.

5/29-30/94 I went up to the property Sunday morning and spent one night. Monday was Memorial day. No caddisfly larvae in the pipe and no grouse on the nest - only 10 broken eggshells. They must have hatched and left the nest.

I did a lot of measurement and experimentation to help me design a water powered saw. I cut a 6 foot 10 inch section of the log where it is 14 to 15 inches in diameter. I hauled this log down to the trailer and if possible, I intend to saw it into 2-inch planks (or maybe a little thicker) for use in making doors. I would like to set up an automatic water-powered saw to do the cutting. The log weighs 300 lb.

While I was climbing a tree to do my experiments, a small tick lodged his head in my left forearm. I held a lighted match near him to get him to back out, but I got the match too close and I cooked him. After talking to Ellen on the phone about what to do, I dug into my arm with a needle for nearly an hour trying to get the dead tick out without breaking his head off. I finally got him out by slowly pulling him straight out. After looking at the body under a microscope at home, I am sure I got the whole thing out.

While I was in the trailer, I could hear mice gnawing. This was not new; I had been hearing gnawing for several weeks but I thought they were chewing something outside. After spending a lot of time trying to locate the mice, I realized that they were in the trailer between the ceiling and the roof. I am going to have to figure out some way to get them out of there.

I didn't dig at all because my arms still hurt, but I think I hurt them worse by dragging that log out of the woods. I am going to have to take it more easy and let these arms heal.

6/6-8/94 Went up to the property for three days: Monday-Wednesday. No caddisfly larvae. Russian class is over so I plan to go up for three days (two nights) during the midweek on a regular basis.

I spent a lot of time trying to keep the mice out of the trailer, if indeed they got in there at all. I undid a ceiling light fixture in the bathroom and stuffed a bunch of mothballs up into the insulation. There is fiberglass insulation in the entire space between the ceiling and the roof. I then cut a small hole in the ceiling just inside the closet by the door. Into this hole, I injected a bunch of wood smoke using a home-made retort. After the smoke, I stuffed a bunch of moth balls into the hole and then covered it with a sheet metal plate.

I also crawled under the trailer and went up on the roof looking for places where mice could possibly get in. I didn't check everywhere, but it looks to me like the trailer was built to be mouse proof. At this point, I am really not sure there were ever mice in the trailer. During the day and night, I could still hear activity up there, but on one occasion, I opened the ceiling vent, and two mice hopped down into the screen. On another occasion, a chipmunk peeked into the vent and looked me in the eye. This proves, that at least on these occasions, the animals were on the outside.

The gnawing is still a mystery, and represents the biggest problem if the animals are on the inside. I couldn't find any evidence of anything being gnawed. Maybe they are bringing whatever they are gnawing with them and then taking it back with them when they leave. At this point, I am hoping that either they never were inside, or if they were, the smoke and mothballs will drive them out. I will keep alert for ways of determining for sure what is going on.

Even though my arms still hurt, I think they are slowly healing, and I spent most of the three days excavating. I am careful not to use my arms in ways that make them hurt. I worked more slowly, but I still made good progress.

Just to get the feel for how a water-powered saw might work, I started ripping the 6 foot 10 inch log down the middle, first using a rip saw, and then using a big one man crosscut saw. The rip saw was slow, but the crosscut was fast and easy. It occurred to me that I might be able to rip this log into planks by hand. I have been doing a lot of thinking about how to build a water-powered saw, but I haven't figured out a good way to make it saw straight.

What I have decided to do is to do 30 strokes with the crosscut saw each time I take a break from digging. This way, I won't overdo it and little by little, I will get the log cut up.

6/13-15/94 I went up to the property Monday with Chuck Kleeberger and spent two nights. No caddisfly larvae. My arms still hurt, so Chuck did all the digging and I spread and packed the dirt onto the road. We also took some time off to visit White River Falls and the scenic overlook above the property. We saw one deer on this excursion and another one just as we were leaving for home.

The basic excavation for the building is about finished. What remains is to lay out where the foundation will go and then excavate that more completely.

I stopped in at the Ranger Station on the way in and talked to Brian Helseth. He assured me that he would talk to Keith Tower and then send him a letter that would satisfy his requirements in order to approve my spring for use as a water source. The rangers also told me that the owl I had seen was a barred owl, not a spotted owl.

The propane tanks were nearly empty, so I took them home to refill them.

1994: Part 2 | Part 3

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