Construction Journal for 1999 Part 1 of 6

1/4-7/99 I went up to the property for 4 days: Monday through Thursday.

I got a late start because I took Gus to the hospital for a checkup in the morning. I left for the property at 3:15 PM and arrived at about 5:30. Fortunately there was no new snow since I had left so I didn't have to do any shoveling. The old slush had frozen, though, so I had to put the chains on in the dark to get the pickup into the parking place. It was tricky walking on the frozen snow in the dark because all the holes I made in the trail were still there but were now solid ice.

Tuesday morning was nice and sunny. I took the gwizzard off the .032 saw and put the ripping chain on it. Mother Sow just wouldn't start. Then I measured and cut log #9 to length for the Grid B purlin.

Next, I rigged up the two strings to scribe the log to flatten it, and discovered that I could use a technique, with a little modification, that I had considered a long time ago and gave up on. With the two strings stretched tight on one side of the log, ready for scribing, I rolled the log so I wouldn't have to bend over so far to draw the mark. Lo and behold, I was able to roll the log just right so that the two strings lined up and cast a single shadow on the log. This made scribing very easy; I just traced the shadow with the magic marker.

Earlier, I had considered using the shadow of a single string, but I had given up because I couldn't figure out how to keep the log and the string aligned correctly. By using two strings, you know if the alignment is right if the two strings cast a single shadow.

Unfortunately, part of the log was in the shade, so I had to bend down and scribe the shaded parts the usual way. More unfortunately, this technique didn't work for the other side of the log because the sun wasn't shining from that side of the log, and I didn't have the log propped up high enough to allow me to turn it all the way over without tearing off the batterboards nailed to the ends. So I scribed the other side of the log the usual way also.

With the scribing done, I used the saw with the ripping chain to cut off a long slab to form the flat rafter bearing surface.

I spent the rest of the day making measurements to figure out where the PSL bearing surfaces should be cut in the purlin. This was complicated. It involved stringing the 100 foot tape across the top of the building where the purlin would go, and worse, it involved an arrangement of plumb bobs and strings to determine exactly how far the purlin should stick out in space beyond the building.

To do this last part, I nailed a 3-foot board on top of the Grid B3 PSL so that it stuck out over the wall. Then I hung a plumb bob from a string over the end of this board and let the plumb bob down almost to the ground, 28 feet below. Then I hung an arrangement of strings in the shape of a "Y" with the two strings at the top hung over the ends of the Grid A purlin and the Grid D purlin. At the bottom of the "Y" was a plumb bob that was also nearly down to the ground. The vertical part of the "Y" was attached by a loop so that it could slide on the upper bridle. This way, I could slide it until it was exactly in line with the string hanging over the 3-foot board. I used a carpenter's square against the foundation wall to line up these two strings. Since I knew where the 3-foot board was with respect to the PSLs, all I had to do was measure the distance between these two strings to be able to calculate where the end of the new purlin should be.

It is nearly impossible for one guy to accurately measure the distance between two hanging strings, so I attached the end of the tape to the foundation wall exactly in line with the two strings, and then measured the distance from the wall to each string independently. Unfortunately, there was an intermittent breeze that wouldn't let the strings stay still for very long. I took a lot of measurements when I thought the strings were settled down but I wasn't sure that I was getting good results. I decided to leave the strings and plumb bobs in place until morning in hopes that the wind would be calm.

That night, it took me about an hour to do all the calculations to figure out the positions of the bearing surfaces and the rebar spikes. It involved a lot of arithmetic with fractions and I didn't have a calculator with me.

On Wednesday, there was still a gentle breeze, but there were enough lulls in it that I satisfied myself that the measurements I had were pretty accurate. Then I dismantled all the plumb bob rigging and cut the three bearing notches in log #9. It was sunny again and the temperature was about 40 degrees, so I mixed up a batch of Tim-bor and treated the purlin. In the process of cutting the notches, I revealed a white grub about an inch long sleeping in his hole in my purlin. Since there were quite a few other such holes, I knew that there were a lot of his buddies also sleeping in my log. I was careful to fill all of these holes with insecticide to make sure these guys didn't wake up and start eating again.

After that, I made cardboard templates of the cross section of the purlin at the two end bearing notches. Then I took these up to the tops of the PSLs to determine and mark exactly where the PSLs should be cut off and exactly what the shape and location of the notches in the wall logs should be. In the process of doing this, Larry Copenhaver stopped by and inspected the new purlin and the grub I had dug out of it.

After he left, I discovered that the bearing notch in the butt end of the purlin wasn't deep enough. If I left it the way it was, I would have to notch the wall log too deep. Since this would weaken the bearing strength of the wall log, I decided to cut the purlin notch deeper.

I cut the notch about 2 or 3 inches deeper, remade the template, and then went up and re-drew the marks on the wall log and the PSL. By that time it was too dark to work so I quit for the day.

On Thursday I started by marking the entire rafter bearing surface of the purlin with the locations of where the rafters are to go. I realized that the easiest time to do this is when the log is lying on the ground. I regret that I didn't mark the purlins that are already in place. Fortunately, I can still reach the wall purlins pretty easily, so I can mark them, and if I mark the ridgepole before I put it up, I should be able to place the rafters correctly without any further marks.

When that was done, I cut the PSLs to grade and cut the notches in the wall logs. I hadn't had enough foresight to keep the rebar spikes out of the wall notch area, so in both cases, I had to notch around a rebar spike and then hacksaw the spike off so it wouldn't be in the way of the purlin. I finished around 12:30 and quit for the week. I took the propane tanks home and I also took Mother Sow home and left it at Chainsaws Plus to get it fixed.

1/11-13/99 I went up to the property for 3 days: Monday through Wednesday.

I got an early start, had a cinnamon roll, and arrived at 11:00. There had been no new snow since I had been there, so I didn't have to do any snow shoveling at all. Since everything was ready, I started out pulling log #9 up onto the building. In the process, a small flock of gray jays visited me and I fed them a few peanuts. They land right on my hand, or sometimes on my head, and eat the peanuts out of my hand. I break the peanuts in small pieces so it's easier for them to swallow, but mostly so they have to stay on my hand longer for the same amount of food. I got one end of the log up on the southwest gable end and the other end sort of hanging over the northwest wall by the time it started getting too dark. I left the log hanging like that over night.

There was a slight drizzle on Tuesday morning, but it was dry for the most part. I started off by using the chainsaw to cut off the end of a wall log in the northeast wall that was sticking out at the corner. This would have been in the way of the roof, but now it was in the way of getting log #9 pulled up over the edge of the wall. With that out of the way, it was relatively easy to pull the log into position as the Grid B purlin. I got another little thrill as the log dropped into place.

After lunch, I rigged a single string and a plumb bob over the end of the Grid D purlin in order to align the new one. By standing on the roadway halfway to the hairpin turn, I could stand in a position such that the Grid A purlin end was lined up with the string, and I could see that the new Grid B purlin was sticking out about a quarter of an inch too far. After climbing back up onto the scaffolds, I used a come-along to pull the log a quarter of an inch toward the building.

Back down at the roadway, I was pleased to see that all three purlins were lined up exactly. Next, I strung strings from the peak batterboards to the Grid A purlin and adjusted the new purlin sideways until it lined up vertically with the string. Then I spiked it to the walls and the PSLs.

Next, I rebuilt the handrails on the high scaffolds. These had to be dismantled in order to get both the Grid B and Grid D purlins in place. With that done, there was just enough daylight left to make a trail up to log #126 and chop a few limbs off of it.. I plan to use a piece of this log next and since the snow was soft and deep, it took quite a while to break a trail up to the log.

On Wednesday I was feeling kind of sick. I had a headache most of the night and diarrhea in the morning. The weather was clear and cold so the trail I had worked so hard to make was hardly necessary. You could walk on top of the frozen snow almost anywhere.

I tried removing some of the bark from #126 using a spud and using a drawknife, but I soon decided that it would be easiest to use the gwizzard. I cut a 13' 5" piece from the log and used a peavy and some muscle to roll the piece over to the gwizzing station in front of the privy.

About the time I got the log where I wanted it, I was treated to a very pleasant experience. First I heard a raven croak, as I frequently do. And, as I almost always do, I croaked back. Usually the ravens ignore me and just fly right by, but this time, the raven landed in a tree not far from me and we croaked back and forth for a while. Then he flew toward me and we exchanged a couple more croaks. He stopped in a tree not far away, and then flew back and completely circled me. We exchanged more croaks all the while.

About that same time, the little flock of gray jays came back and I was feeding them peanuts out of my hand at the same time as I was croaking at the raven. I thought the croaking might scare the jays but it didn't seem to bother them at all.

As if that weren't enough birds, there was a woodpecker hammering away at a snag about 30 feet away during all this and there was a pair of stellar jays watching the whole proceeding. The stellar jays and I have a disagreement: I have tried to teach them to come down and get peanuts in my presence, and they have been trying to train me to leave the peanuts for them and then get lost. Neither of us has been successful in our efforts and we are both a little chagrined at the other. As a result, I don't give them peanuts any more.

Since Mother Sow was in the shop again, I changed the gwizzard back to the .032 saw. It was after noon by that time and I had to leave for home, so I decided to leave the gwizzing until next time. I had lunch, locked up and packed up, and left for home at about 3:00.

1/19-22/99 I went up to the property for 4 days: Tuesday through Friday.

There was quite a bit of new snow in the pass, but it was plowed and chains were not required. After a cinnamon roll I arrived at 11:55. It was raining lightly on a foot of very heavy wet snow and it took me until 1:00 to shovel out the parking place. I spent the rest of the afternoon shoveling off the ramps, scaffolds, and everything else. I spent quite a bit of time talking with a guy who was looking for Sally VanDeusen's place. He was lost and after getting directions from me, he found that they weren't home. He came back and used my phone to leave Sally a message. While we were standing in the rain talking, he noticed a nail in his tire and he could hear the air leaking out. He said that this just wasn't his day and he took off. He was also a builder and was interested in my project so I invited him back to look it over.

When I went in for the night, I discovered that my radio reception had severely deteriorated. There is a white noise hiss obliterating the entire FM band, and you can also hear the hiss on the AM band. I called the radio station that I listen to and they said that there had been no other complaints and they were getting a strong signal in my area. I noticed that the new neighbors in the Dick Tutino place had installed some new lights that are visible from the door of my trailer, and I strongly suspect they are the source of my interference.

On Wednesday morning, I woke up feeling a little sick and had a bout of diarrhea. There was no new snow on the ground and thankfully it wasn't raining. I gwizzed the new section of log #126, and fed a couple of gray jays during the breaks. The log had a few holes in it that were inhabited by big white grubs, so I mixed up a batch of Tim-bor and treated the log. I made sure I filled up each hole to give the occupant a good drink of the stuff.

Next, I used the crane to skid the log over to the upper roadway and to lift it halfway up the southwest wall. I threw a chain up over an upper window ledge and fastened it around the log. Then I relaxed the crane hook and left the log hanging from the chain for the night.

On Thursday morning, it was snowing and there was about an inch of new snow on the ground. I lifted log #126 up on top of the southwest gable and discovered that I had it wrong end to. After deliberating about it and looking at it from various viewpoints, I decided to bite the bullet and flip the log end for end. Even though it was a little cramped up there, I decided I could spin the log without lowering it all the way back to the ground. It took a little work but I was able to work the butt of the log down under the crane boom and get the job done. By this time the snow had turned to rain. When the log was in place, I spiked it into the wall.

By this time it was raining cats and dogs. I went back into the woods to harvest another section of log #126. Using a spud and an axe, I removed the bark from about 20 feet of the log. All of the bark was infected with two or three different types of grubs or worms. I laid each piece of bark out on the snow with the inside on top so all the grubs were exposed. I hope that the birds find the banquet before the snow covers them up or before the things wake up and crawl away.

Log #126 is a big one, and I began to wonder if I should use it for the next course. I decided to dig out log #127 and make a decision about which one to use next. Log #127 is lying pretty near to the gwizzing station, and in the process of gwizzing the last two or three logs, I had shoveled a huge amount of snow right over the top of log #127. The snow pile was probably 6 to 8 feet high. I found the log and got it dug out before the end of the day. There was still enough light to be able to measure the diameters. The top of #127 was 10.5 inches and the butt was 14 inches. The top of #126 was 13 inches. I decided to use #127 for the next course. My plan is to use the smallest logs first because as the gables go up, the logs get shorter so that sort of makes up for the diameter getting bigger.

Sometime during the day, I got a call from Chainsaws Plus telling me that Mother Sow was ready.

On Friday morning, I cut a 12 foot section from log #127, dug a big channel through the snowbank connecting the log with the gwizzing station, and then, using a come-along, pulled the log through the channel and up into the gwizzing station. I had previously peeled the top portion of this log with a drawknife, and after trying both a spud and a drawknife, I decided that the drawknife worked the best. I finished drawknifing the entire log before lunch.

In the middle of lunch, Larry Copenhaver stopped by for a visit. I invited him in and we chatted over postum while I finished my lunch. After lunch, I locked up, packed up, and left for home. I picked up Mother Sow on the way home. They replaced the muffler, but couldn't find an air leak. They did what they could to adjust it, and it runs fine at low elevation. I hope the thing works better for me now up at the property.

1/26-29/99 I went up to the property for 4 days: Tuesday through Friday.

I got an early start, had a cinnamon roll at the 59er Diner, and arrived at 10:30. The weather was clear and 25 degrees. There was only an inch of new snow on the ground so I didn't have to do any shoveling to park the pickup. The snow was frozen hard so you could walk on it anywhere. I took the opportunity to hike up to the spring and clean out the leaves and debris that had accumulated around it. Then I rigged the crane and winch up, and pulled the section of log #127 over to the building and then up onto the southwest wall. I spiked it into the wall and cut the taper on the ends of it. I used the .032 saw even though Mother Sow was presumably fixed because the ripping chain was already mounted on the .032 and I didn't want to take the time to exchange the bars. I will find out soon enough if Mother Sow will work.

On Wednesday, it snowed lightly all day. I dug out and cut a 9 foot section of log #127. Then I used the crane to pull it out of the snow and skid it over to a snowbank near the sand crib. There I used the drawknife to remove all the bark. I got pretty warm so I worked in shirt sleeves and got soaking wet from the falling snow and from sweating. When that was finished, I pulled the log up onto the southwest wall. I temporarily lashed it to the RPSL and temporarily nailed it to the log below it. This would hold it safely over night because there wasn't enough time left in the day to spike it in. Also, I think I will have to build a higher scaffold anyway to spike it in because it is too high. I haven't figured out exactly how I am going to build the scaffold so I will have to give it some thought. By the time I quit for the day, there was about 3 inches of new snow on the ground.

I heard on the radio that there was supposed to be a lot of new snow in the mountains, but I still failed to get my snowshoes out of the pickup and bring them to the trailer for the night. Fortunately, I did have the presence of mind to place my snow shovel next to the trailer door.

I woke up on Thursday morning to see the snow banked up against the trailer windows. It had snowed about 3 feet over night and I was barely able to force the trailer door open enough to reach out and get the shovel. In the process of shoveling the snow out from under the porch, I found that the shovel needed wax; the snow was sticking to the shovel making for a lot of extra work.

I took the shovel into the trailer, heated it over the gas burner, and applied a coat of paraffin on both sides. Then I went out and using the shovel, spent 2 hours and 15 minutes breaking a trail down to the pickup so I could get the snowshoes. That was hard work. I tied a short rope to the handle of the scoop shovel and used it to break the trail the same as I described in the 2/25/94 entry of this journal.

I spent the rest of the day making trails and shoveling snow off of the mixer roof, the winch shed, the privy roof, the workbench, tool box, ramps, scaffolds, log walls, and the snowshed roof. It snowed another foot during the day so some of the things I cleared earlier were covered again by the end of the day.

On Friday morning the radio said that another big snowstorm would hit the pass in the afternoon, so I decided to finish cleaning snow off the tools under the workbench, which got avalanched again, and then pack up and leave to beat the snowstorm.

In the process of putting away the tools, I got a call from Ellen saying that mom had been rushed to the hospital because her lungs were full of fluid. I got on the phone, made a lot of calls and arrangements, and then packed up my stuff and went down and started digging the pickup out. Fortunately I was able to flag down a snowplow and I got him to plow away quite a bit of the berm that they had piled up behind the pickup. I cleared the other half away with my scoop shovel. That took about an hour and I left at 1:00 and drove straight to the hospital.

2/16-17/99 I went up to the property for 2 days: Tuesday and Wednesday.

I skipped the previous two weeks because of Mom's illness and Norma Jeanne's death. This week, Ellen was home Monday because it was a holiday, and I had an appointment to take Gus to an eye doctor on Thursday. That left me with a short 2-day week. I would have skipped it altogether except that there had been a lot of snow in the mountains since I had been up there, and I was afraid that the weight of it might break the temporary snowshed in the crawl space. Also, in my haste to leave the last time, I forgot to shut and lock the crawl space door and I wanted to get up there and shut it.

After having a cinnamon roll, I arrived at 11:30. I had called Mike Dickinson and asked him to scoop out my driveway so I wouldn't have to spend time shoveling it out. When I got there, I found that he hadn't done anything with it, so I spent an hour and a half shoveling out about 2 feet of old frozen snow.

There were some footprints going onto the property but I could see that whoever it was started sinking in pretty deep with each step, and as soon as they got within view of the cabin and the trailer, the tracks went up toward the cabin a few steps and then turned around and walked back out.

I spent the rest of the day breaking trails, shoveling everything off, and carrying two barrels of yard waste up to the compost pile.

It snowed a little overnight, but a big storm was due to come in during the middle of the day. I decided to leave early in order to miss it. I cleaned up the trailer, put things away, locked up, and left for home about 12:30. I was ahead of the storm and had no trouble going over the pass.

2/24-26/99 I went up to the property for 3 days: Wednesday through Friday.

Gus was in the hospital with pneumonia over the weekend and I took him home on Tuesday. As a result, I didn't get up to the property until Wednesday. An avalanche just 10 minutes ahead of me caused the pass to be closed for about 2 hours. After that delay and a cinnamon roll, I arrived at about 2:00. It took me until after 3:00 to shovel about a foot of wet snow out of the parking place. It had snowed 3 or 4 feet since I had been there, but that had been rained on so it had shrunk to about a foot of slush. I only had time to move in, make trails and shovel off a few things before I went in for the night.

On Thursday I shoveled off the ramps, scaffolds, tool box, workbench, snowshed, etc. and fed my pair of gray jays a lot of peanuts. It rained off and on all day. Since I couldn't reach the last log I put up well enough to drive in the spikes, I built a new high scaffold. I made a bracket that I nailed to the RPSL and then laid a plank from that to the grid D purlin. I lashed the end of the plank to the purlin because the other end cantilevers out over the bracket by about 3 feet. This way, I can reach the entire log even though the scaffold is only on one side.

On Friday, I finally spiked in that top log, #127, into the southwest wall. Then I tried in vain to start Mother Sow, and after giving up, I used the .032 saw to taper the ends of #127. All the while, the pair of gray jays were getting handouts. When I went into the trailer, the jays came to the windows begging. I opened a window and the birds came right in, sat on my hands, and ate bread and peanuts. I guess it is about time I came up with names for them.

I left for home about 1:30.

3/2-5/99 I went up to the property for 4 days: Tuesday through Friday.

This has been a very snowy winter. The snow banks along the road over the pass are about 15 feet high. The road was well plowed, so I had no trouble getting over. After a cinnamon roll, I arrived at 12:20. It took me an hour to shovel about a foot of crusty snow out of the parking place.

After moving into the trailer, I broke trails with the snowshoes, and then dug out 14 feet of the top of log #125. It was under about 5 feet of snow back in the woods.

On Wednesday morning, there was about 6 inches of new snow on the ground and it snowed lightly all day. I tried starting Mother Sow, and lo and behold, it worked! I used it to cut the exposed 14 foot section off the end of #125. Then I used a come-along attached to a tree to pull the log section out of the hole in the snow. With the log up on the snowbank, I used the spud to remove the rest of the bark. I had spudded the top half of the log earlier, so I only had half of it to do. Then, using chains, a long cable, and the come-along, I pulled the log nearly to the upper gwizzing station before I quit for the day. That night, I could feel tennis elbow coming back to my right elbow, so I decided to start wearing the tennis elbow band again to keep it from getting worse.

Thursday was a beautiful sunny day. I finished pulling #125 to the gwizzing station, and then mounted the gwizzard on the .032 saw. I need a name for this saw, so I decided to start calling it "Old Reliable". It really is; I don't think it has ever failed to start for me right away. I finished gwizzing the log before lunch.

Larry Copenhaver stopped by for a visit just as I finished lunch. After he left, I measured the space where the new log is to go, and then used Mother Sow to cut the log to length. Then I started rigging the crane to pull the log to the building. First I had to clear the snow off the ramps and scaffolds. Then I had to dig a long trench in the snow to free up the east boom control rope so I could raise and swing the boom. I also had to dig the winch shed out so I could get at the winch. The snow around it was about a foot above the winch shed roof. By the time I finished that, it was time to quit for the day.

Friday was another beautiful sunny day. I finished rigging up the crane and started pulling the log toward the building. I got it almost there and then the winch failed. It seems to be an electrical problem. I dismantled the winch, loaded it into the pickup to take it home, had lunch, packed up and left for home about 1:30.

3/7/99 I took the winch apart and discovered that the motor was completely destroyed. One segment of the commutator had come loose, probably due to overheating, and it had torn up the entire brush mechanism. The winch was about 2 months beyond the warranty period and a replacement motor cost $250 plus tax retail. The original winch cost $390 including tax but that was wholesale. I decided to wait and see if I could get by using the 12-volt winch for the rest of the project.

1999: Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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