Construction Journal Entry Week of 3/14/04

3/16-18/04 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

It was a beautiful 54 degrees when I arrived at 1:40. After moving in and having lunch, I set the trap using a different piece of plywood and I set the trap in a different place. Then I sanded the loft post and beam and the five logs on the northwest wall. I noticed that the peanut was gone from the pipe but I didn't know what to conclude. I put a new peanut in the pipe and left the screen off.

On Wednesday morning, I found that the peanuts on the floor were gone, the bait was all gone, but the trap didn't go off. Score one more for the pack rat. He's still in there and making me look foolish.

I decided to make a sheet metal valve flap for the pipe to prove whether or not the pack rat goes out the pipe. I made a flat sheet metal flap that is hinged and counter-weighted so that it gently fits up against the pipe opening. If you put a slight amount of weight on it, it swings down and the counter-weight then holds it open. I put a peanut on the flap before I closed it thinking that the pack rat would be more likely to jump down onto it to get the peanut. He would then get dumped outside onto the ground. That's the plan, anyway.

I spent the rest of the day planing, scraping, and gouging the next 6 logs between Grids A and B and the part of the Grid B PSL in front of those logs. I also broomed off all the surfaces I would varnish the next day. Before I went in for the night, I got some more peanut butter for bait and set the trap again. I tried to make it a little more sensitive, but it is hard to know exactly how sensitive it is without setting it off.

On Thursday morning I was happy to see that I had caught the pack rat again. I decided that I was going to change my attitude toward him. Instead of considering him an adversary, I would hire him as a security consultant. That made me the boss rather than the loser in the game we had been playing. The terms of his employment are that he will get a bonus of peanut butter each time he finds a way to get into the building. I will deposit his payment on the trigger mechanism of the trap. If he can't find a way back into the building the next time, then he will be fired and have to go someplace else for work.

When I let him go outside, I tried to get another picture of him but the camera was too slow. I think I got a shot of his tail as he dove off the plywood. He ran behind the house again and I went back inside. This time I went up into the loft and just sat and watched the wall. Sure enough, in about 10 minutes I heard him scratching. I saw a shadow go across one of the holes I had screened over, and the next thing I knew, he appeared, as if by magic, just above the Grid B purlin. He gave me another dirty look, I took a picture of him, and he ran down the wall heading for his nest.

I couldn't imagine how he had gotten in. The only way I figured he could appear above the purlin was to have a hole in the screen that covered the inch and a half space between the 2x6 and the rafter flange. I had inspected that screen many times and it was tight and perfect. But, I couldn't see the part of it directly above the purlin so I figured there must be a hole there that I couldn't see. I got a piece of wire to use for a feeler and with it I couldn't feel any hole in the screen at all. I was baffled.

I figured I needed to see into that space so I got a light bulb on one side and I got my head up so I could see into the space. What I saw made me feel so stupid. I could see that the 2x6 was not continuous. There was a nice 2 inch gap where the two 2x6s didn't quite meet. Then I remembered when I placed those 2x6s. I had used two 8-footers and they were 2 inches too short for the whole run. Since their only job was to provide the top part of the pocket the ceiling boards go into, that gap above the purlin wouldn't matter at all. What I didn't think of was that until the ceiling boards were actually installed, that 2 inch gap made a nice hidden doorway for small critters. Fortunately I had left temporary ceiling boards in place on the other gable wall so there wasn't a pair of similar holes over there.

I made a pair of U-shaped screens out of hardware cloth and jammed them into the spaces above the Grid B purlin and the Grid D purlin, which has the same kind of gap. I'm sure those holes are now rodent proof. Now I'm ready for my pack rat consultant to find the next hole I don't know about.

Turning my attention from pack rats to building, I went to work and varnished the sealer coat on the right side of the Grid B PSL and the six logs between Grid A and B. I put the final coat on the five logs on the northwest wall, and the second coat on the loft post and beam. I left for home at 2:15.

When I got home, there was an email message from Dr. Dick which said, in part, "With regard to the pack rat, I was actually surprised you hadn't mentioned the benefit of his existence earlier. I knew you would recognize it sooner or later. And yeah, you are just like any other employer, fire the guy, no pension no nothing, as soon as you don't need him anymore. --Joke-- I presume you know that!" From his time stamp it looked like he was thinking the same thing I was at exactly the same time.

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