Construction Journal for 1996, Part 1 of 6

1/2-4/96 I went up to the property for three days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I had to shovel about a foot of wet snow to park the pickup. After packing the trail with snowshoes and then making a few trips on foot, I used the wheelbarrow and the backpack to carry the rest of the 40 concrete blocks I had brought up to the site.

On Wednesday, I pulled the second log down to the log storage rack. It rained off and on all day so I got soaking wet.

On Thursday morning, there was about two inches of new snow on the ground and it kept snowing most of the day until I left. I spent most of the morning in the trailer working on sequence of building activities for the cabin. During a sun break, I went out and took a bunch of pictures of the site from various viewpoints. During the Christmas holidays, I decided to start a special photo album of the log cabin project. Part of this will be sequences of shots from each of several locations showing the progress of the building from these viewpoints. The pictures I took on this trip will be part of that.

When I left, the propane tanks were about 5/8ths full.

1/6/96 Finished chipping the last of the special concrete blocks. These are needed to be able to run the bond beam rebar around the corners and up against the door and vent jambs. I did this chipping at home so I wouldn't have to waste time doing it up at the property.

1/8-10/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Monday through Wednesday.

There was a foot of snow on the ground with a crust of ice on top and it took me about a half hour to shovel a parking place for the pickup. It was overcast and just above freezing but there was no rain or snow coming down. There were a lot of huge blobs of ice falling from all the trees so there was a lot of noise from falling ice while I was shoveling, making trails, and moving into the trailer. I was careful not to be under any tall trees because it looked pretty dangerous. I got about half the blocks hauled to the site before dark, and after dark, I worked on the detailed sequence of steps to build the log house.

On Tuesday, I finished hauling the blocks by noon, and in the afternoon, I worked on limbing a fallen tree that was over the new pipe route. I will use that log as part of the log rack. It started raining around 3:00, and by 3:15 I was soaked. I gave up and went to the trailer and worked on the details of penetrations of the foundation (pipes, wires, ducts, etc.).

It was pretty dry and clear on Wednesday morning so I didn't mind working outside. The first thing I did was search the outside of the trailer for the circuit breaker panel. I had already searched the inside and not found it. I had called the manufacturer and they said they no longer have records for that old of a model but they gave me some hints as to where to look. I tried those hints and couldn't find it.

I took off a panel on the outside of the trailer that would give me access to the radio and I was pretty sure the breaker panel had to be in there. It wasn't. The panel is just a vent at the top of a hot air plenum for the refrigerator. The radio wasn't really supposed to be in there, but someone installed it after the trailer was built. I needed to get at the radio anyway, because I had accidentally hooked the battery up with reversed polarity once when the radio was on, and it blew the fuse.

Now I will have to call the manufacturer again and get some new clues. I am baffled; I think I have looked at every square inch of that trailer and I can't find that panel.

After that, I got out the wheelbarrow and shovel, and removed about 2 feet of accumulated snow from a pile of boards in the building site. Then I moved the boards out of there. I need that space to store more blocks starting next time. All the other block piles are about as high as I want them to go, and I only have just over half the blocks up there. This new area is pretty big so there should be enough room for the rest of the blocks. I was just finishing this work around noon when it started raining again, so I packed up and went home. I didn't check the propane tanks.

1/12/96 I talked to Joe, the expert at the trailer place (800-228-1495), and he gave me essentially the same clues for finding the fuse box in the trailer that I had gotten before. The new information was that there would be a 12 volt converter in the trailer and it would be in a metal box about 6"x6"x15". I sure should be able to find something that big.

1/15-17/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Monday through Wednesday.

It was snowing in the pass on the drive over, but I didn't have to put chains on. There was no new snow at the property, or else it had been rained away, so I didn't have to do any shoveling to park the pickup. It rained pretty hard the whole time on Monday so I got pretty wet hauling about a dozen blocks up to the site.

That night, I did another search for the fuse box and I found it. It isn't at floor level nor at eye level nor is it accessible from outside; it was about knee high behind the only cabinet door I hadn't looked in. I guess that's what you would expect. Unfortunately, all the fuses looked good, so I will have to bring my meter along and diagnose the problem. Also, contrary to what Joe told me, the trailer does not have a 12 volt converter - at least it doesn't appear to have one to me. The lug on the fuse panel marked "charging circuit" doesn't have a wire connected to it, and there is no 6x6x15 inch box nearby.

On Tuesday, the weather was mostly overcast, but dry. That made working a lot more pleasant. In the morning I finished hauling up the rest of the blocks and in the afternoon, I limbed and cut a log that was still over the water pipeline trail. I also made some progress pulling it out of the woods. I will use it as part of the log storage rack.

Wednesday was a beautiful clear bright sunny day but the temperature was a little below freezing. It was a real joy to work outside. I spent the day stripping forms so I could enjoy the view and the nice day. I left for home around 2:00. The propane tanks were empty, so I took them home with me.

1/23-25/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

There was a lot of new snow in the pass, but chains weren't required. There was 16 inches of new beautiful light powder snow at the property. It took me about a half hour to shovel out a parking place.

I had a pretty bad sore throat and felt like I was getting sick, so I didn't work too hard on Tuesday. I hauled about a dozen blocks up the hill. I drank some hot Thera-flu, went to bed early, and got up late.

On Wednesday morning, my throat was still sore but felt a little better. I wheeled the rest of the blocks up the hill by around 2:00 or so. I didn't feel like working much more, so I just went for a walk in my snowshoes over all the trails on the property. It is so beautiful with the sun shining on that deep soft snow. I was looking for animal tracks, but I didn't see any but some mouse tracks. I did see a new tree that had blown over, but it is still hanging up against another tree. I will have to get that one down, if it doesn't fall by itself. It looks like the trunk has a lot of taper, but there still might be a usable log in it.

On Thursday morning my throat felt almost well and since the sun was shining I decided to strip some more forms. While I was getting my tools, Larry Copenhaver stopped by so we had a nice chat, went for a walk, and then went in for some cocoa. After he left, I spent an hour or two stripping forms before I left for home.

1/20-21/96 I went up to the property for 2 days: Tuesday and Wednesday.

Seattle streets were still very icy from the earlier snowfall, but the main roads over the pass were normal for this time of year. I didn't have to put on chains and I had no trouble. The temperature was zero when I got to the property and there was about 8 inches of new snow. It was very dry and powdery so it was easy to shovel out a parking place.

I got 8 blocks hauled up to the site by 2:00 when I stopped for lunch and the temperature had warmed up to 8 degrees. I had warmed up from the work, but the trailer still wasn't very warm. I made the mistake of opening a can of chili for lunch and found that it was a very solid cake of ice. I poured boiling water over the can to get the frozen chili out, and then I kept stirring and scraping the lump until it finally melted and heated up.

For an appetizer, I had a new treat: fish ice cream. I had a jar of pickled herring in sour cream sauce and that, too, was frozen solid. It was about the consistency of hard ice cream and I was able to cut bites out of it with a fork. It tasted good but it was a little strange.

After lunch, I went back out and hauled the rest of the 48 blocks up to the site. The work went a little faster because it was so cold that the trail got packed down hard and smooth after a few trips with the wheelbarrow. The sun was setting later also so I was able to work until about a quarter to six.

The temperature started dropping pretty fast after dark and I couldn't get it any warmer than 58 degrees inside the trailer, even after cooking my dinner. I had plenty of warm clothes so I didn't have much of a problem keeping myself warm.

The next morning, it was 16 below zero outside and 40 degrees inside. I got out an egg for my pancake batter and it was frozen hard as a rock. I got the shell off with the help of some hot water, and I let it thaw in some warm water before I mixed up the batter. After breakfast, I decided to cut the trip short a day and go home. All the blocks were already unloaded, and it was a little too cold to be working outside. The propane tanks were just under half when I left.

2/6-9/96 I went up to the property for 4 days: Tuesday through Friday.

My intentions were to stay for only three days, but road closures forced me to stay an extra day.

On Tuesday, Stevens Pass was closed until 10 AM and chains were required so I didn't get to the property until 2:00. There was snow on the road all the way to the property so I just left the chains on. There was about 2 feet of new snow on the ground; the top six or eight inches were wet and the snow under it was dry and powdery. It took about an hour to shovel out a parking place. It was snowing when I got there, but it soon turned to rain and it poured for the next three days.

Making trails was hard work because even with snowshoes I was sinking in knee deep with each step. The heavy wet snow on top would then fall on top of the snowshoes and I would have to lift it up with the next step or shake it off. It took the rest of the day just to make trails and dig out the tool boxes. As a result, I didn't get any blocks moved.

On Wednesday, I slept in a little and got a late start moving blocks. I got about 3/4ths of them moved by 2:30 and then went in for lunch. Before going back to work at about a quarter to four, I checked the propane tanks and found that they were empty. I called the Parkside Grocery to make sure they were open and found out that they didn't have any propane. They told me I could get it at the Outdoor Equipment Hardware Store in Plain. I called them and they told me they were closing at 5.

I had to hustle to get the tanks disconnected and loaded in the pickup in time to get there. The roads were terrible; there was about three inches of ice in most places but they were awfully rutty with a lot of standing water and slush along with the ice. Fortunately, I still had the chains on the pickup, but unfortunately, I couldn't go more than 35 mph. Also unfortunately, I forgot my wallet, but fortunately I realized it by the time I got to the Cougar Inn. It was now 4:30 and I turned around and went back to get my wallet. Then going about as fast as conditions would allow, I made it to the store at 2 minutes to 5. I got my propane and had a more relaxing drive back over those awful roads.

Needless to say, I didn't get any more blocks moved that day. I was all cozy in the trailer after having dinner and about 7:00 I heard the familiar sound of snow letting loose and avalanching down the roof of my snowshed. But this time it was much louder than normal and I knew something was wrong. I looked outside and discovered that the snow avalanche had torn the porch roof completely off the snowshed. It was still raining cats and dogs so now if you went out the door, or even stuck your head out, you would get soaked because the water running off the snowshed was just 6 inches in front of the doorway.

When I talked to Ellen that night, I told her that I would like to get the porch fixed the next day and that I still had 15 blocks to haul up the hill. She told me that she heard that Snoqualmie and Stevens passes were closed and that I might have to stay an extra day anyway.

On Thursday morning, after I got the blocks unloaded and was ready to go home, I called and found out that both passes were closed and I had to stay another night. It was raining cats and dogs but I put the rain clothes back on and fixed the porch. That took me most of the rest of the day.

On Friday morning, I left for home about 11:00. Between the Parkside Grocery and Highway 2 I passed Bob Peters going the other way. I turned around and caught up with him at the Parkside Grocery where he stopped to get some gas. He told me that Highway 2 was still closed. I decided to return to the trailer and wait until the road opened up. I called the Skykomish Chevron station, and the guy there told me that he was told that the road would open at noon. Since it would be noon before I got there, I took off.

When I got to Index, the road was still closed, but the guy said it would open momentarily. After waiting nearly 2 hours, I gave up and drove around via Reiter Road. That road was in awful condition. It is a dirt road with deep ruts and potholes. It had washed out also, but they were working on it and after a 15 minute wait, I made it through. Needless to say, I was relieved to get home.

2/13-15/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

It was beautiful, sunny, and warm (around 32 degrees) for the entire three days. It was a real pleasure to be up there working. There was no new snow on the ground, so I didn't have to do any shoveling. My trails were still packed hard so it was easy to wheel the 36 blocks up to the site. I finished that by 4:00 on Tuesday. When I finished with the blocks, I dug the log I was pulling out of the woods out from under about 3 feet of snow.

I went in for dinner around 5:00 while it was still sort of light because the power was off when I got to the property and Mike Tutino said it probably wouldn't be restored until the next morning. Since I didn't have 12 volt power, the only light I had were flashlights and one battery powered light on the wall.

I cooked and ate dinner as quickly as I could mostly in the dark, and then went to bed early. Of course, I made a new resolution to get the 12 volt power fixed.

The power came on about 3 in the morning.

After breakfast, I took the 12 volt battery and the 12 volt winch into the woods and started dragging the log out. I got it about half way out by 1:15 when I went in for lunch. There was a message from Earl Landin on my answering machine and when I called, found out that he was out on the lake making the maiden flight in his ultra light parachute airplane.

I packed a quick lunch of peanut butter sandwiches and took off in the pickup to find Earl. I found him and Ron Siderits on the frozen lake and he hadn't taken off yet. I spent the rest of the afternoon on the ice and watched Earl make three successful flights. He did a professional looking job of flying and made it look easy and fun.

When I got back, there was time to pull the log a little farther before it got dark.

On Thursday morning, I pulled the log all the way down to the log rack, and I dug one of the other logs out from under the snow and turned it 90 degrees. I decided it would be better having the logs with their ends facing the work site so I could pull them out of the pile easier. Now I just need to dig the third log out and turn it and I will be ready to take delivery of the logs.

2/20-22/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

The temperature was around 32 degrees and there was no new snow. The sun was shining and it was like a beautiful spring day. The snow on the trails was still firm but the snow off the trail was soft, wet, and knee deep. It had shrunk down so that instead of being a foot and a half higher than the trail, as it had been, it was now almost level with the trail. This was deceiving because if you stepped just a little off the trail, you sank up to your knee in wet snow.

The wheelbarrow worked great, though, as long as I kept it right on the trail. I hauled all 36 blocks up to the site before 4:30. I wasn't sure if it would rain or thaw more and make the trail too soft to use, so I got the blocks moved as quickly as I could.

This was the last load of blocks; all the blocks are now up at the site ready for the weather to warm up enough to start laying them up. Hooray!!

It did start raining lightly around 5:00 and it rained off and on all night. It also snowed a little also so there was about a half inch of new snow by morning.

On Wednesday, I nailed some new house numbers on the sign by the road. The old numbers were made of yellow electrical tape, but the snow had covered the sign and when it shrunk down, it pulled most of the numbers off the sign. These new numbers are metal and should be permanent.

After that I finished up with the log storage rack by digging the third log out from under about 3 feet of snow, lifting it out, and turning it 90 degrees. I am now ready for log delivery. Again, hooray!!

Since the sun was shining and I had reached these two milestones (blocks on site and log rack ready) I took a bunch of pictures from various locations.

After lunch, it started snowing lightly so I figured that it would be a good time to diagnose and fix the 12 volt electrical problem. I had brought my meter along on this trip with this intent. I got the battery out of the pickup and hooked it up to the trailer and then started measuring voltages to find the problem. With just a few measurements, I zeroed in on the fuse for the lights (surprise). I had looked at this fuse before but it looked OK. Now that I had the meter there was no doubt that it was bad. Since the element did not look open, I think that it may have been a defective fuse. Later I broke it open and discovered that the element had broken away from one end where you couldn't see it. Anyway, when I replaced the fuse, all the 12 volt lights worked OK. I forgot to test the water pump which is on a different fuse, but I will check it out next time. It feels good to have that problem fixed.

While I was in that mode, I also replaced the fuse in the radio and put it back together. Now it works fine also.

Even though it was still snowing, I went out and spent the rest of the afternoon digging the snow away from the southeast footing so I could strip the forms there.

On Thursday morning, I called Louis Brender to talk about my log order, but I got his answering machine and I left a message to call me.

There was an inch or two of new snow on the ground and it was snowing lightly and sporadically with a few sun breaks in between. I spent the morning stripping forms and got about half of the outside of the southeast footing done before I left for home.

2/26-28/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Monday through Wednesday.

There was about 6 inches of new snow on the ground when I got there a little past noon. While I was shoveling out a parking place, Karen Arnold stopped and we chatted a while. After moving into the trailer, I spent the rest of the afternoon getting ready to fall a pine tree down by the driveway entrance. The log will make a good purlin, and taking the tree down will help open up the view of Mount Mastiff. I used my tree measuring machine, which I described on page 25, to figure out where the tip of the tree would reach when the tree fell. I walked across the snow in my snowshoes making a mark where I expected the tip of the tree to land. The area where the tree would fall was all clear except for some small trees. It was after 5:00 by the time I was ready to start cutting, so I decided to wait until the next day.

Mike Tutino and Mike Jr. stopped by for a visit the next morning before I had finished with the breakfast dishes. We visited in the trailer for a while, and when they left, I went out and fell (felled, falled?)- cut down- the pine tree. It came down without incident right where I wanted it to. Mike and Mike stopped by again later to check on me and the tree. I spent the rest of the day limbing the tree and stacking the limbs. The tree was 79 feet long and the tip of it had landed right on my snowshoe track where I had predicted it would. After I cut the top off the tree, I was left with a 66 foot log. After peeling it, I will cut a 42 foot purlin out of it.

Earl Landin stopped by after I had finished stacking limbs and we visited in the trailer until it got dark.

In the morning, I started peeling the log and discovered that the sap had already started running so the peeling was pretty easy. I got the log about half peeled before I packed up to go home. While I was packing up, Earl stopped by again and gave me a book on safety considerations in falling and bucking trees. Since I am a novice at this, and it is pretty dangerous, I appreciate any help and information I can get.

3/6-8/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Wednesday through Friday.

On the way, I stopped in and returned Earls book. I also gave him copies of the pictures I took of his first flight in his ultra-light airplane.

There was about 3 inches of new snow on the ground, but I didn't have to shovel the driveway in order to park. I spent the first afternoon rigging up chains, come-alongs, and a scaffold frame to move the pine log and turn it so I could finish peeling it. About 10 or 15 feet of the butt was lying in very dense woods and brush, so I wanted to get it out where I could peel it easier. I got most of it peeled before the end of the day.

On Thursday morning, I got up early and went to meet with Louis Brender at his place. I spent the morning with him talking about logs and building with them and I paid him $3307.39 as a 40% down payment on 2784 lineal feet of house logs. He will deliver them some time between May 15 and June 15, 1996 at which time I will pay the balance of $4960.99. It's pretty expensive ($2.75 per lineal foot) but the price of logs is high and there aren't many sources of supply so we don't have much choice.

When I got back I finished peeling the log, cut a 42 foot log out of it, and pulled it out of the woods and up onto the rack. Louis told me that he didn't recommend using Ponderosa pine for structural members because it isn't very strong, so I will have to think about whether or where to use this log in the building.

On Friday, I shoveled the snow off the footings so that it will melt away sooner and so that I could make some measurements for the crawl space doorway. I will begin making the door frame this week or next.

3/11-13/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Monday through Wednesday.

The weather was about 45 degrees and springlike; it was beautiful. I turned the new log over to help it dry evenly and I finished peeling a small patch of bark that was still left at the butt. I spent the rest of the day, and all of Tuesday stripping the rest of the forms from the footings. The snow had melted all around the footings so it made it easy. It looks nice now that the forms are all stripped away.

On Wednesday, I laid out lines on the south corner of the footings for the first course of blocks, and I got the blocks out ready to lay. I also strung the hose up to the building site so I am ready to mix mortar and lay blocks. If the weather is good next week, that is what I will do. Otherwise I will work on harvesting some fallen trees.

Earl stopped by as I was getting ready to leave and we had a nice chat for about an hour and a half.

3/17/96 Ellen and I drove to the Tacoma Dome and attended a big Log Home show. We got a lot of information on fireplaces, wood stoves, chinking material, and log finishing products. We met John LaGamba, President of Temp-Cast. That is the company that makes the masonry heater we are thinking about getting. We bought a book, "The Log Home Owner's Manual", on log finishing. We also bought a Log Wizard which is a milling attachment to a chainsaw. It can be used for debarking and rough milling of logs. I plan to use it to hew the tops of the purlins to make a bearing surface for the rafters. The thing cost $199.00 but we think it will be worth it if it saves me from more tennis elbow episodes.

3/18-20/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Monday through Wednesday.

Since the weather promised to be rather mild, I brought three sacks of mortar mix with me and I planned to start laying up blocks. In the last couple of weeks, I had prepared a rather detailed plan (about 160 steps) for laying up the foundation, and I also estimated the time required to execute the steps. I got started laying up blocks by around 10:00 on Monday, and by the end of the day, I had done 1.4 estimated days of work. By the end of Tuesday, I had done another 1.4 estimated days of work and had completed the lead on the south corner up to the bond beam course. If this pattern holds for the rest of the foundation project, it means that my estimates are 40% too big, and I should be able to finish the foundation by May 25.

Since the temperature was still getting down to freezing during the night, I covered the work with tarps and had two 75 watt light bulbs on during the night under the tarps. During the night and early in the morning I checked thermometers on the new walls farthest from the light bulbs and the temperature didn't get below 36 degrees. That's plenty safe. After it quits freezing at night, I won't have to mess around with tarps and bulbs and the work should go a little faster.

It is a real pleasurable feeling being able to finally see the building start to grow. You can see that south corner now from the road and also from the trailer. And from here on, it will only continue to get higher.

On Wednesday, I cut and pulled down the tree that I mentioned in the entry for 1/24/96. It was still hung up on another tree just above the drainfield site and I wanted to get it down. I didn't limb or peel it, but just looking at it, it doesn't look like the log is any good.

The snow is almost completely gone from the building site now, but there is still about 2 feet of snow on the driveway so I can't get the pickup more than 5 feet from the road.

1996: Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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