Construction Journal for 1996, Part 2 of 6

3/26-28/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

Over the past few weeks I had been making a scale model of the log house and except for the deck it is pretty much finished. I brought it along on this trip to take pictures of it with the site as background. That way we can visualize how the house will look when it is done. On the way up, I stopped and showed the model to Earl. He was sick with a cold but I went in and visited him anyway.

The sun was shining when I got to the property, so I spent the first hour or two taking the pictures. I made a stand that would hold the model 5 or 6 feet off the ground. After orienting the model on the stand to line up with the building foundation, I would get behind it and position myself so that the corners of the model foundation lined up with the corners of the building foundation. I would take a picture from this position, and then take the model and stand away and take another picture from the same place and, hopefully, of the same background view.

All this gave me a late start for laying up blocks, but I got a mortar mix sack's worth laid up anyway. Since it had been freezing at night, I covered the new work with tarps and put the light bulbs under it again.

The temperature got down to 28 degrees that night and it snowed lightly off and on on Wednesday morning. The temperature got up to about 43 degrees so I laid up a bunch more blocks. The forecast was for a much colder night and it was supposed to be clear and sunny on Thursday.

At 1:30 in the AM, I got up and checked on the temperature of the blocks. They were just about freezing, so I went back to the trailer and boiled a pan of water. I brought that up to the site and set it under the tarp in a section that didn't have a light bulb near it. I also took the hose and wrapped it around the block wall and let the water run through the hose. That water is between 45 and 50 degrees and it should provide enough heat to keep the mortar from freezing.

It was still freezing outside on Thursday morning and didn't warm up until about noon. So I spent the morning burning a pile of old form boards that had been accumulating all winter. After it warmed up, I finished laying up the first bond beam course on the northeast wall. Before I left for home, I again covered the work with tarps with the hose and lights under it. I left the lights on and the water running when I left.

4/3-5/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Wednesday through Friday.

The weather was balmy and dry but there was still too much snow and ice on the driveway to get the pickup up to the trailer. I was still recovering from a cold that I got over the weekend and I didn't feel to strong or well. On Wednesday I erected the crawl space door frame, and then helped a couple of teenage girls get their pickup out of the mud.

On Thursday, I laid up 17 blocks on the northwest wall. Larry Copenhaver stopped by and chatted for a while.

On Friday, I finished laying up the northwest wall up to the bond beam course. It was after 6:00 PM by the time I quit work and left for home.

4/9-11/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

On the way up, I dropped the chainsaw and the Log Wizard off at Chainsaws Plus. They are going to install it on my chainsaw for me. It requires an extra long chain, so I am having them add links to my old chain, on which the teeth are almost filed away anyway, and sell me a used bar on which they will mount the Log Wizard. They are also going to sell me a new chain to replace the old one. They said I can pick it up next week.

The weather had been warm so I was pleased to discover when I got to the property that I was able to drive the pickup right up to the trailer. The snow was almost completely gone from the driveway. After I unloaded my gear into the trailer, I drove the pickup up to the site so I wouldn't have to wheelbarrow the six sacks of mortar up there. I had to put chains on the pickup, though, because the roadway was a little muddy and very slippery. Before the end of the day, I laid up 16 blocks on the southwest wall.

On Wednesday, I laid up another 16 blocks and had a lot of visitors. Earl stopped by about noon and gave me a snapshot of me taken on his maiden flight in his ultralight plane. He also found a knife of mine that had been lost in the driveway most of the winter.

Later on, Rick Morrison and Sally VanDeusen stopped and visited. They own a place on the river four miles up the road. We had a nice chat and I showed them around the property.

About 3:30 Shirley Tutino, Roberta Copenhaver, her grandson Lucas, and Adie the dog came up and watched me lay blocks for a while. Roberta invited me for dinner. I quit work at 5:00 so I had time to clean up and walk over to their place in time for dinner at 6:00.

On Thursday, I laid up 19 more blocks before I ran out of mortar. I left for home about 4:30.

4/15-17/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Monday through Wednesday.

On the way up, I stopped at Chainsaws Plus to pick up my chainsaw and the Log Wizard. They said it worked fine, except that the cutting teeth on the chain cut a groove that was a little deeper than the cutting head of the Log Wizard. This would be no problem for rough work like debarking, but if it is a problem, they said I could grind the teeth off by using the saw to cut into asphalt. I will have to think about whether or not I want to do that.

Since the driveway was now snow free, I brought the cement mixer back up to the property on this trip. I also brought six sacks of mortar mix. The driveway was fairly dry so I was able to get the pickup up to the site to unload the mixer and the mortar mix without having to put on chains. I did, however, get stuck coming back down and had to put on one chain in order to get down.

It clouded up and rained off and on most of the day so I rigged tarps over the foundation so I could lay up blocks in spite of the rain. I laid up 12 blocks. Mike Dickinson stopped by and looked over the site. He said he would be able to get started on the septic system in two weeks or so. He also looked at the foundation and selected the spot where the sewer pipe should leave the building.

It rained cats and dogs all night, and it rained most of Tuesday as well. I laid up 15 more blocks which completed the foundation up to the first bond beam level. Before I can go any higher, I need to lay the rebar in the bond beam channel and have it inspected. But before I can do that, I need to fill all the cores with concrete...And, in order to do that, I need to clear and fix the upper roadway so I can bring a pickup load of aggregate up, and I need to build a bin to store it in.

I started this work by building a storage bin for the aggregate. I had a bunch of old form plywood that Bill Odgers gave me. There were eight fairly big pieces and I made the bin from six of them without having to saw anything. The bin will hold a little more than a yard and is in a nice out-of-the-way place that will be real handy to shovel into the mixer.

When the bin was built, I cleared off the upper roadway and moved some rocks and dirt to make the surface driveable. The plan was to get a pickup load of aggregate on Wednesday if the ground were dry enough.

It didn't rain at all Tuesday night, so in the morning I thought the roadway might be dry enough. I decided to drive the empty pickup up to the top to see if could be done. It was a good thing I did. I had to put the chains on and still got stuck several times. I had to work on the road quite a bit more to get the pickup up to the gravel bin and back down. I determined that it was still just too wet to try it with a load of gravel.

I spent the rest of the day making ramps and scaffolding so I can wheelbarrow the concrete up to the wall to dump it in the cores. I made a small dent in this work before it started raining again, and I left for home.

4/22-24/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Monday through Wednesday.

Both Saturday and Sunday had been warm and sunny but a general rain over the entire northwest was predicted for the week starting on Monday. For this reason, I decided to try to beat the rain and get a load of gravel up to the site as quickly as I could.

On the way to the property, I stopped at the Two Rivers office and paid Roy for a pickup load of sand and gravel. Since pea gravel is best for making the concrete to fill the cores, and since Two Rivers didn't have any mixed aggregate of pea gravel and sand, I decided to buy half a load of pea gravel and half a load of mortar sand. Their price is the same regardless of how much you want to haul in a pickup: $16 per load. By choosing mortar sand, I can use it to make my own mortar for the blocks after I have filled the cores.

I brought two sacks of cement with me from Seattle, so before I could go pick up the aggregate, I had to unload the cement. This would also be a good test of the road to see if I could get the pickup up to the site with a load of gravel. There was no trouble getting the pickup up to the site, but after I unloaded the cement, I got stuck big time coming back down.

As soon as I started slipping, I put on the chains. All that did was help my right wheel dig a hole down to the axle. Next I hooked two come-alongs to a tree and tried to pull the pickup out. When this didn't work, I got the jack out and jacked both wheels out of their respective holes. This took multiple passes, gaining an inch or so each time. As the wheel was raised, I kept stuffing rocks into the hole under the tire. Eventually, I got high enough to get out.

By this time it was raining lightly and it was about 1:30 PM. I grabbed a roll to eat on the way for my lunch and beat it down to the Two Rivers gravel pit to get the sand and gravel. I knew that the rain would only get worse and if I didn't get the gravel up to the site right away, I would either have to wait a week, or probably really get good and stuck in the mud.

With half a load of pea gravel under a plastic tarp and a half a load of sand on top of it, I got back to the property and put the chains on before I even tried to get up the hill. Fortunately, I had no problem getting the load up to the storage bin.

Since I had built only one storage bin, and now I had both sand and gravel, I took the remaining two pieces of Bill Odgers' plywood and made a partition in the bin. Then as the rain got heavier I shoveled the sand and gravel into the bin. Fortunately it all fit; the sand completely filled one side of the bin and the pea gravel filled about half of the other side. After the pickup was empty, I carefully backed it down trying to avoid a repeat of the morning. It worked; I got back down without getting stuck. By this time it was 5:30 and raining cats and dogs. I quit for the day.

It rained cats and dogs all night, and was still raining in the morning, so I started work by rigging tarps overhead so I could keep reasonably dry. I spent the day building scaffolding for the southeast and southwest walls.

On Wednesday, it was still raining. I finished building the scaffolding, built ramps so I could get the wheelbarrow up on the scaffolding, and built a funnel box so I could dump concrete from the wheelbarrow directly into the cores. Then I set everything up that I would need to mix concrete. I moved the mixer to a spot near the aggregate bin, ran the power over there, and added a section of hose so the water would reach over there. I debated on whether to try to pour concrete in the rain, but decided against it. Instead, I placed all the vertical rebar in the walls so now I am ready to pour in all the cores. I also covered the walls with visqueen to keep the rain from getting into the cores.

On the way home, it was snowing pretty heavily in the pass, and there was a fatal accident on 522 so I had to detour around and take Route 9 to Woodinville.

4/29-5/1/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Monday through Wednesday.

The weather was finally nice for the whole time; It was about 50 degrees with a few clouds, but most importantly, no rain. Before I started mixing concrete, I wired a board across the bottom of the wheelbarrow legs so that I could park it on the relatively narrow planks on the scaffolding. After that, I noticed that the rain had gotten into some of the cores so I spent some time trying to get it out. For the ones where I could reach the bottom, a big sponge worked great and I emptied them. For the ones I couldn't reach, I tried several things but nothing worked very well. I decided to leave the water in and see if the concrete would push it out.

I spent the rest of Monday mixing concrete and dumping it into the cores. I used two of the three sacks of cement that I had plus a small part of a sack left over from earlier.

On Tuesday morning I was so stiff and sore that I wasn't sure I was going to be able to work at all that day. It was mostly my shoulders, probably from shoveling or maybe from wheelbarrowing, and my neck was so stiff I could hardly move my head at all either up and down or from side to side. After my stretching exercises and breakfast I was feeling a little more limber so I decided to go for it. I loosened up right away and had no problem working.

I mixed and poured enough concrete to use up the last sack of cement. Just as I finished cleaning up the tools, Larry Copenhaver stopped by to chat and see what I had done. I gave him a ride back home and continued on to Two Rivers and bought three more sacks of cement. When I got back, I put the chains on the pickup and drove it up to the site to unload the cement. Fortunately, I didn't get stuck coming back down this time.

For the rest of the day, I mixed and poured more concrete and used up another sack of cement. By that time I was almost out of pea gravel.

On Wednesday morning, I was not quite as stiff and sore as I was the previous morning, but I woke up at 6:00 with a splitting headache. I hadn't turned the furnace back on yet so it was pretty cold in the trailer. I turned the furnace on, took two aspirin, and went back to bed. At 7:00 I woke up again and the headache was gone.

I went back to Two Rivers and got a load of pea gravel and some more sand. They didn't have much pea gravel left so they couldn't use their loader on it. Instead, I had to shovel the gravel by hand off the ground and into the pickup. I thought it was going to be a long hard job, but it only took me about half an hour.

I put the chains back on the pickup and got the load of sand and gravel up on top without incident. I nailed a few more boards onto the storage bin so it would hold more, and then shoveled the sand and gravel out of the pickup into the bin. I had more sand than the bin would hold, so I made a shallow bin on the ground, lined it with a piece of visqueen, and shoveled the rest of the sand into it. Fortunately, again, I didn't get stuck backing the pickup back down, but unfortunately, this time I broke a tire chain trying to back over the rocks in the roadway. I hope I will be able to fix the chain.

It was about 3:30 when I finished, and rather than start mixing concrete, I placed the rebar in the part of the wall where the cores were filled. The northwest wall and not quite half of the southwest walls are filled. This is just under half of the job of filling cores at this level.

5/6-8/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Monday through Wednesday.

The weather was beautiful: cool, clear and just right for working. I brought 4 sacks of cement with me, but instead of going through the hassle of getting the pickup up to the site and back down, I decided to leave the cement in the pickup and wheel each sack up in the wheelbarrow as I needed them. That way I could get started mixing concrete sooner. The rest of the day, I mixed and poured three sacks worth of concrete. That evening, I got the sad news that my friend Larry Markegard had died the night before.

On Tuesday around noon I finished filling all the cores. It took almost another 2 sacks of cement. I called the building department to see if I could get an inspector out that day, but they said they needed 24 hour's notice. I scheduled them for the next day, and since they said that they inspect private jobs in the afternoon, I was a little disappointed that I would have to waste time waiting for the inspector.

All that was left to do prior to the inspection was to lay the rebar in the bond beam channel. That was easily done by mid afternoon. After that, I peeled the 6 or 8 foot butt end of the ponderosa that I had cut down last winter. I don't know what I will use that piece for, but I decided to peel it anyway.

Since I couldn't do any more work on the foundation until the inspection, I slept in on Wednesday. The telephone woke me up at 7:50. It was Bruce Williams, the inspector, who said he would be out late in the day, around 1:00. When he said 'late', I was a little disappointed; when he said '1:00', I was a lot happier. That would give me some time to pour some concrete before I went home.

Since I had the morning to kill, I had a leisurely breakfast and did some clean up chores in the trailer. At 10:15, while I was drying the breakfast dishes, Bruce drove up. He inspected the job and asked a few questions. In ten minutes he was gone. I immediately went to work mixing concrete and pouring it in the bond beam channel. I used the last sack of cement, plus a small part sack, and almost finished the job; there were just two blocks left to fill. To finish up, I used some mortar mix and added pea gravel to make enough concrete to finish the job. I finished at about 4:30 and left for home about 5:00.

5/14-15/96 I went up to the property for 2 days: Tuesday and Wednesday.

I was sick in bed with what I thought was mild food poisoning on Monday but I felt OK on Tuesday morning so I went up to the property. I took three sacks of cement with me as well as a bunch of old boards a neighbor didn't want and the last of the pipes needed to imbed in the foundation wall. I still wasn't feeling all that well, but I did wheel the cement up to the bin and laid up 9 blocks. I also de-winterized the trailer and took the first hot shower up there for the year. In the process, I discovered that the water heater pilot light doesn't stay lit. I hope it will fix itself now that I will be using it regularly. If not, I will have to figure out how to get it fixed.

The next morning I was sick again so I decided to pack up and go home right away. I unloaded the old boards and the pipes, loaded up the propane tanks, and left for home by 9:30 AM. It turned out that I was participating in a stomach flu epidemic that was hitting the Seattle area.

5/20-22/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Monday through Wednesday.

When I first got up to the building site on Monday, I had a rather sad surprise. In my haste to leave last week, I had left a 5 gallon bucket out half full of water. When I looked in the bucket, I saw two mice and a small weasel, all drowned. The weasel was only about 10 inches long including his tail. Earl Landin told me later that these small weasels are the ones that turn white in the winter and are known as ermine. This one had either been chasing the mice who jumped into the bucket, or the mice had fallen in and the weasel went in after them. Anyway, none of them could get out. I felt terrible and I will never leave a bucket out upright like that again.

Gayle and Al stopped in at the property around noon on their way from North Dakota to Seattle. We had a great visit and did the tour around the property. They left about 5:30. I laid up 6 blocks after they left. In the wildlife department, we saw a few frogs, lizards and chipmunks. Earlier I discovered that a small snake had fallen into the privy and couldn't get out. I tried to get him out with a long hooked wire but he wouldn't stay on long enough for me to lift him out. Instead I put a small tree branch down in the hole and left. When I came back out, the snake was gone.

On Tuesday, it rained most of the day, so I worked under tarps. Rain makes the work go a lot slower. I laid up 20 blocks and then met Earl Landin at the Cougar Inn for dinner at 7:00.

It rained Wednesday, as well, and I laid up 19 more blocks before I went home at about 5:00.

5/26-27/96 Ellen and I went hiking and spent Sunday night in the trailer. On Saturday, on the way up, we hiked the Iron Goat Trail. On Sunday I gave Ellen a demonstration of block laying and laid up two blocks. I also called Mike Dickinson and he said he would come over to the property on Wednesday afternoon to see about getting started on our septic system. After that, we drove to the end of the Chiwawa road and hiked up to the Shaeffer Lake trailhead.

5/28/96 I made the six vent frames for the foundation.

5/29-31/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Wednesday through Friday.

The weather was cool, dry, and a little breezy the whole 3 days. Just right for working-and hardly any mosquitoes. I laid up 6 blocks and one vent frame which built the lead on the west corner to the top. Mike Dickinson didn't show up so I called him in the evening and he said he would come over in the morning.

Mike showed up about 8:00 on Thursday morning and we talked about where he could scoop out some dirt and where he could stockpile some gravel. He said he would get started maybe next week.

After he left, I spent about 2 hours figuring exactly how and where to build the deck ledger. I needed to know exactly where to imbed the anchor bolts for the ledger before I laid up any more blocks on the south corner. Once I had it figured out, I laid up 16 blocks which brought the lead on the south corner up to the top. Larry Copenhaver stopped by around noon to see what I had done.

Now that three corners of the foundation were in place, I set up the transit level and spent most of Friday morning measuring and truing up the corners. Since the east corner is right on top of the footing, I could move that corner location somewhat at will, and since the north corner needed just a single block, which I hadn't laid up yet, I could also move the location of that block to square and level the foundation. After stringing a lot of strings, taking a lot of transit measurements, and doing some calculations, I determined the exact locations of the north and east corners. The wall lengths and heights are within a sixteenth of an inch, and the difference in the diagonals is within a quarter of an inch. That is plenty close enough for a log building.

When the measurements were done, I laid up 10 blocks on the northeast wall including the north corner. Now all four corners are in place which should speed up the laying of the rest of the blocks.

I also worked on diagnosing a propane leak that you could smell on the outside of the trailer. It turned out to be the fittings which connect to the tanks that were leaking. I was afraid to torque the nuts any tighter for fear of breaking them, so I will seek some advice on how to deal with the problem before I do anything more about it. The tanks were nearly empty so I brought them home. Before I fill them, I can have someone inspect them and determine whether or not I need to replace them to fix the problem.

About 4:30 when I was getting ready to go home, Earl Landin stopped by and we had a nice chat while he looked over the new work.

6/4-7/96 I went up to the property for 4 days: Tuesday through Friday.

This was the week for activity and visitors! Bob Burton had called me earlier and said that he and Pat planned to visit up there Tuesday afternoon. I got up there just before noon and I brought the building model and the building photo album with me to show to the Burtons. I also brought the full propane tanks back along with the parts needed to fix both the gas leak and the water heater pilot light. Evergreen RV had exactly the parts needed to fix both problems.

I had just started working on fixing the water heater when Larry and Roberta stopped by. They came in and spent some time visiting and looking at the model and album. They no sooner left when the Burtons drove up. We had a great visit and they left about 6:00. There was still plenty of daylight left to finish the repair on the water heater and to hook up the new hose connectors for the propane tanks. When that was done, I was able to heat water and cook my dinner. After dinner, I made a second sewer pipe stub so that I will have an option of using a higher or lower one depending on where the septic tank ends up being situated. There was also enough time to whack down the new growth of ferns in the flat area. I plan to keep these ferns down this year to see if it has any effect on the mosquito population. I don't think it will be a good experiment though, because for some reason this is a mild mosquito year.

On Wednesday morning, I excavated a part of the hillside to accommodate the two sewer pipe stubs and was just about finished when Earl Landin came by and invited me to go on a short hike. It was a beautiful day and we went over and hiked into the Ohme's original cabins which are tucked way back in the woods. We made a loop out of it by hiking out on a forest service road I hadn't been on. It was a very interesting and enjoyable hike and we were back around 1:30.

For the rest of the afternoon, I laid up 16 blocks including four pipes. The pipes really slow up the block laying progress. In the evening I called Mike Dickinson and asked him again what the slope of sewer pipes should be. He said they should drop one inch in ten feet. He also said he would be over to start on the septic system at 8:00 the next morning.

Thursday morning was D-Day (June 6th) and Mike showed up at 8:00 with his tractor. I finished excavating for the sewer pipes and laid up 16 blocks. I ate lunch with Mike and his crew. When they left, around 3:00, Larry Copenhaver stopped by again to see what progress had been made. He was just leaving when Shirley Tutino stopped by for a visit. She looked at the building progress, toured the property, and looked at the model and the album.

Mike and his crew came back on Friday morning and continued working on the septic system. I laid up a record 27 blocks. These particular blocks didn't have any pipes or rebar associated with them so they were a lot easier and faster to lay up. Early in the afternoon, Sally VanDeusen stopped by and asked me to give Mike the message that she didn't need to have him come over and do some work after all. After Mike and his crew left and I was getting ready to leave for home, Larry Copenhaver stopped by for one last visit. I think this week set a record for visitors to the property.

1996: Part 1 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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