Construction Journal Entry Week of 5/31/15

6/2-4/15 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

On the way I visited with Priscilla in the hospital. From there I went to the bank, the Post Office, and on to Monroe where I visited with Uncle Charles. I didn't stay long but I learned that one of the caregivers had lost a game of checkers to Charles that morning. I proceeded on to visit with Marilyn and George and had a delicious lunch with them.

It rained a little going over the pass but when I arrived at Camp Serendipity at 2:55 the rain had stopped. After carrying my gear up, I brought the wheelbarrow down to the truck and wheeled two 60 lb. sacks of mortar mix and a bathroom faucet set up to the cabin.

Ellen had told me how inconvenient it was not having a faucet in the bathroom sink so I decided to install a standard faucet even though I don't think it will work very well with just 10 psi. But since the installation would be easy, some water flow would be better than nothing. I installed the faucet set and was happy that there is enough flow to brush your teeth and wash your hands. If it proves to be unacceptable later on, I can try to figure out a more full-throated system later. This will do for now, and I have to admit that it is a lot more convenient than using the kitchen sink all the time.

It was a little chilly in the cabin so I built a small fire in the wood stove before I took my shower.

On Wednesday I started out by replacing the temporary handrail over the loft staircase. I had removed it in order to install the fascia boards and it needed to go back.

Next I tried shooting some video scenes, but after a few attempts it was clear that the lens I was using as a replacement for the one I had broken a few weeks ago, was just not suitable for videos so I gave up on that.

After that, I turned on the hose to water Brian, the giant sequoia, and then went into the woods to check on the trees. Brian's irrigation was working fine and the rest of the trees seemed to be thriving.

When I got back, I scouted around and selected some big rocks that I planned to use to make the rock steps below the front staircase. I had decided to start on the front staircase project instead of the front stoop.

I used the wheelbarrow to haul the selected rocks over to the upper roadway near the staircase. When I had what might be enough rocks stockpiled, I started cleaning out the various stuff that was in the way of laying up the stone steps. There was a lot of old sheet metal left from the trailer snowshed so I separated it out and loaded it into the truck to be recycled.

Some time during the work, I got a call from NW Eye Surgeons informing me that I was a candidate for a clinical trial of the Corneal Collagen Cross-linking procedure as a cure for my Keratoconus—an unfortunate long term side effect of the radial keratotomy I had had years ago. I will also have to have cataract surgery some months after the cross-linking in order to fix my vision well enough to be able to pass my driver's test which comes up in 2017. I was delighted with this plan and scheduled the cross-linking procedure for the middle of July.

After lunch and a nap, I did some measurements for the stone steps and found that there were a couple rocks that were too high on the left side. I tried to break the rocks with two big hammers, but the rocks were too big. I tried to dig them out, but they went very deep. Then I tried a big steel bar, and with that I was able to extract the top rock which was the smaller of the two.

After a lot of struggling, digging, hammering, and prying the big rock, I decided to pull it out with chains and a come-along. I looped a chain over the end of the Grid F.5 porch beam and attached the hook of the come-along to it. Then I wrapped a second chain around the rock and hooked the come-along to it. Then, by successively advancing one click on the come-along and prying and/or hammering on the rock, I gradually pulled the rock out of the ground.

The rock was bigger on the bottom than on the top, so it was really wedged in there and took quite a bit of doing to get it out. But I had had a lot of experience pulling out stubborn rocks like that so it was sort of a fun reminiscence for me to finally win the struggle.

While I had the steel bar, the chains, and the come-along out, I tackled another small project that has been nagging me. Robert had given me a huge section of the trunk of a big tree that had been infested with mistletoe. The tree had produced a huge branch in defense of the infection and Robert thought it was novel enough that I should display it prominently for all to see. His guys had moved that big stump up the driveway and placed it opposite the Camp Serendipity sign.

It wasn't over as far as it could be so I had planned to move it over another 8 inches or so. I started by trying to use the steel bar and a stone fulcrum. It sort of worked for a while, but then I realized that the stump was not stable and the extra weight of the gigantic branch tipped the whole thing over.

To fix that, I placed some stones on the downhill side and then used the chains and come-along to pull the thing upright again. The extra stones on the downhill side leveled it off enough that it was no longer unstable. The result of all that work was hardly noticeable, but it did give me another 8 inches of clearance for the truck the next time I drive it up to the upper roadway.

By the end of the day, after putting all the heavy tools away, I was plenty tired and sore and ready for the shower.

On Thursday morning, I did some systematic and careful measuring, drawing, and planning for the stone steps. They need to tie in with the log steps with the same pitch, riser height, and tread width as closely as possible, or at least with a smooth transition. In the process of measurement, I discovered that a concrete block has just about exactly the same width as my riser height: 7 5/8 inches. That means that I can use concrete blocks as gauges for laying up the steps.

I can place a block on a lower, existing tread so that it is lined up with the next higher riser. Then I can select rocks and pile them up behind the concrete block and arrange them into the desired final configuration. Then I can dismantle the rocks, keeping track of how they were arranged, and then lay them back into place with mortar in between them to take up the air space. At least that's the theory and the plan. I'm eager to see how it works starting next week.

I left for home at 1:00 very happy to be making progress building for a change.

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