Construction Journal Entry Week of 2/8/04

2/10-12/04 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I arrived at 12:45. It was a sunny 32 degrees and the forecast was for clear weather for the rest of the week. The drive up had been spectacularly beautiful. I figured this would be a good time to put a new roof on the privy. I brought a roll of roll roofing with me and carried it up to the privy. Then I shoveled the snow off the privy roof so it could start drying off. There was about 2 feet of dense snow on top. The lower 2 or 3 inches was solid ice which I had to chip loose.

When that was done, I moved in, had lunch, and by that time the remaining ice and dirt on the privy roof had melted enough so that I could sweep it off. I also saw why the roof leaked. I had used old fence boards for the roof and they weren't all the same thickness. Clever me figured that I should alternate thick and thin boards so that the roof would be stronger. I figured I didn't want a bunch of thin boards right together. That arrangement meant that there were many steps of about a quarter of an inch between many adjacent boards. The pressure of the accumulated snow was strong enough to shear the roofing and tar paper completely through at these steps. I was thinking I would simply put another layer of roll roofing over the top of the old roof, but I could see that if I did, the same thing would happen.

I decided to put a layer of plywood on first to make a smooth surface for the roofing and I had just the thing. The 3/8" plywood chip box I made for the pickup was no longer going to be needed for chips, so I decided to dismantle it and recover two full size 4x8 sheets and two six footers. This would be plenty to cover the privy roof.

When I went into the building, I found the screen over the pipe was still intact and the peanut was still inside. That told me, at least, that no critter had come into the pipe from the outside. Then I set the trap hoping to catch the pack rat overnight.

I sanded the surfaces that were due for another coat of varnish. I decided to put four coats on the pine logs that had already started to gray. They were extra porous and they didn't look good enough to me with only three coats. I also put four coats on the window frames since they would be getting an extra dose of UV.

On Wednesday morning, I was happy to see that the trap had sprung. I carried the trap outside, shut the door, opened the trap and there was a little packrat. He (she) looked to be about half the size as the first one I caught. I took a picture of him (her) before he (she) ran behind the building. I felt pretty proud of myself.

I went back in and started sanding the Grid B purlin from the scaffold. I looked over and saw a pack rat climbing down the gable wall in the loft. I wondered if this was another pack rat, but it gave me such a dirty look that I knew it was the one I had just put outside. It came from the wall on the side of the building the guy had run behind and since they are nocturnal, they shouldn't be up and around during the day. I figured there must be some hole somewhere.

I searched inside and didn't find any holes. Then I went outside and inspected the chinking looking for a hole. I found a big gap in the chinking but the insulation was still tight behind it and the hole didn't lead into the building, so I was pretty sure this was not how the pack rat got in. Then I found a loose place in the screen over the insulated space above the wall. This was evidently how the mice got in there, but that didn't allow access into the building, so that wasn't how the pack rat got in either.

I got some hardware cloth and stapled it over the mouse hole to seal it off. This was at the top of the East corner so I climbed up the projecting log ends to get up there. I had to use a lineman's belt and a rope to hold me so I could use both hands. It was a little awkward, but I got it done.

Then I went back up in the loft and checked above the gable wall and I discovered no less than eight big holes that would allow a pack rat to walk right in. These holes will eventually be plugged by the ceiling boards when they get installed, but for now, they allow free access to the critters. I made a hardware cloth patch for each hole and stapled it in place. I felt a little stupid because when I chinked those areas, I knew there were probably holes left but I guess I just forgot about them. I had temporary pieces of ceiling boards in place when I chinked, but when the chinking was set up, I took those boards back out. Big mistake.

It was lunch time by the time I got all the holes screened. After lunch, I dismantled the chip box and set to work roofing the privy. I barely made it before it started getting dark I could hardly see the last few roofing nails I drove in. It was getting very dark by the time I got all the tools and things put away. Before I went in, I dusted off the walls I had sanded to be ready for varnish, and I set the trap again. I felt headachy and sick when I went in for dinner, but I took an aspirin and felt a lot better after I had eaten.

On Thursday morning, I was happy to see that the trap had sprung again. I was unhappy to discover that it was empty and the bait was untouched. The trap either fell down by itself or the critter had pushed on it from the outside and set it off. I didn't want to catch the guy while I was gone, so I just left the trap down with the bait inside. I'll set it again next time.

I varnished the final coat on everything above the high scaffold between Grid A and D. Next time I'll take down the upper tier which will make it a lot easier to reach the rest of the wall. I left for home at 12:15 and saw Ron Sideritz walking on the road. I stopped and talked to him about my trapping experience. He told me that packrat fur is as soft as a chinchilla's fur. It dawned on me that a pack rat looks exactly like a chinchilla so I suspect they are closely related. The drive home was as gorgeous as the drive over had been.

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