Construction Journal Entry Week of 1/16/05

1/18-20/05 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

It was pouring rain all the way up and over the pass. All the rivers were super high, but they were still in their banks. On the other side of the pass, there was frozen slush on the road. There had obviously been an ice storm and the ice on the Lake Wenatchee Highway was an inch or so thick. The White River Road hadn't been plowed and the ice was about 3 inches thick. I had to stop for two or three crews working on trees that were on the power lines. There must have been five places where trees had fallen across the road but they were all cleared by the time I went through.

I arrived at about 12:45 and it took me a half hour to shovel out a parking place. I have never shoveled such wet and heavy snow. The bottom three or four inches of it was gray because it was super saturated with water. It also had a crust of ice on top of it from the ice storm. All the trees had about a half inch of ice coating every part of them. The temperature was just above freezing, and the sun was peeking out, so there was snow and ice continually falling from high in the trees and crashing to the ground.

When I moved in, I discovered that the power was out. Since my propane furnace wasn't working quite right, I had a back-up plan in mind. This was the time to try out the plan. The problem was that the pilot flame doesn't hit the thermocouple so it is hard to light the normal way and it doesn't stay lit after the thermostat shuts off the furnace fire. My back-up plan was to use a propane torch to light it. That would heat the thermocouple more than enough and would also light the gas. I tried it and it worked like a charm. The test would be to see if it would stay lit.

I moved all my gear in and in the time it took, the furnace stayed running. I took that to mean that it would work well enough until the power came back on.

Walking up to the cabin, I could see that the snow from the roof had slid off with more speed than I had ever seen before. There was a crater in the roadway by the little tree where my drainage ditch runs off the cliff. Then the snow itself was spread in a huge jumble from that crater all the way to the trunk of the grand fir in the center of the hairpin turn. Most of the snow was piled up directly across from the trailer. It would have really been something to see when that snow slid off.

Up at the cabin, I saw that two trees - actually two trunks of a forked tree - had broken off about 50 feet above the ground and they had fallen on the roof of the building. About 10 feet of the top of one of them had evidently broken off by hitting the ridge and the top of the tree was still lying on the roof up near the ridge on a bunch of snow and ice. On the other side of the building, one log had its butt up against the top of the foundation wall and another one was leaning against the roof with its butt in the crotch of the double tree in front of the crawl space door. It was the top of this tree that had broken off. The top of the first log was a little ways beyond the west corner of the building. There was also 20 feet of rake metal in the snow on the ground below the west corner. It wasn't damaged too badly but the 14 screws that had fastened it to the fascia were still sticking straight out of the metal. There was some wood still stuck to some of the screws but I couldn't figure out how those screws got pulled straight out without damaging the metal. I felt really lucky that neither tree hit my stovepipe stack. I think it would have torn it right off.

Later, I figured that the first log I mentioned had landed on the roof and hit near the top of that rake metal. The impact bent the standing rib of the panel on the edge of the roof over flat. This allowed the rake metal to slide off at that point. Then I think the log slid all the way down and off the roof, peeling the rest of the rake metal off as it went. It must have happened fast and smoothly. The 20 feet of rake metal was composed of two 10 foot sections, and they were still fastened together lying there in the snowbank. The only thing holding them together was the caulk and the sleeve fitting. The lower of the two 10 foot sections didn't have a mark on it or a bend in it. The top section was dented and bent some, but I think it might be salvageable with a little straightening.

Needless to say, I was glad that my roof was built extra strong. I went into the cabin and could see a little daylight through a small hole in the ridge. There obviously was some damage there that I will have to repair, but it doesn't look like much.

I called Shirley to thank her for a Christmas gift she had hung on my trailer door, and to ask her about the power outage. She said that there had been a two-day ice storm - Monday and Tuesday - and that the power company said the power would be off until some time in the evening.

I took a bunch of pictures of the damage, and then I tried to lasso the part of the tree that was still up on the roof so I could drag it off. After a lot of trying with different size ropes I finally gave up and finally went in to do some productive work. I sanded all the surfaces that were due for another coat of varnish. Since I had no power, I couldn't run the vacuum while I sanded, and I had to sand it all by hand. I also couldn't see very well in there, so I had to sand it pretty much by feel. I had just about finished sanding at 5:15 when the power came on. I had turned the electric heater on in the trailer in addition to having the propane furnace running, so when I went in for the night, the trailer was a little more than toasty warm.

On Wednesday morning, the temperature was up to 34 degrees so ice was again crashing down from the trees along with a lot of water. I went to work moving the trees away from the building. I had to wear my rain gear and I still got pretty wet.

The first job I tackled was to get the tree off that was leaning up against the foundation wall. I limbed the tree with my axe and cut the top 15 feet or so off. Then it was easy to roll the log away with my cant hook. The log was 8 inches at the butt.

With that tree pretty much out of the way, the next job was to move the one that was leaning against the roof. I got my ladder and chained a snatch block 20 feet up the same tree that had broken off. I ran a cable through the snatch block and with a lot of tricky maneuvers, I managed to fasten the end of the cable above the center of gravity of the tree I wanted to move. What I did was from high up on the ladder, I threw the end of the cable so that it went over the top of the trunk of the tree about where I wanted to grab it. Then I took a piece of rebar tied to the end of a parachute cord, and threw that so that it went under the trunk at about the same place. Both the rebar and the end of the cable fell down through the branches so I could reach them from the ground.

I climbed down the ladder, went under the tree, and tied the end of the parachute cord to the end of the cable. Then I went back up the ladder and pulled on the parachute cord. This pulled the cable up so that now it was around the trunk of the tree. Then I fastened a shackle to the end of the cable with the standing part of the cable through the shackle. This made a noose that tightened up nicely around the trunk exactly where I wanted to pull.

Back on the ground, I took the other end of a cable, connected it to the hook of a come-along which I unrolled all the way, and then I chained the come-along to a tree. When I cranked on the come-along, I was able to lift the tree gently away from the building. The problem was that the butt of the tree was lodged in between the two trunks of the double tree, so that after the tree was clear of the building, I couldn't lower it without it going right back up against the building.

I tried prying the butt of the tree out with a big steel bar, but it wouldn't budge. So I rigged another come-along chained to the butt of the log and the other end about 6 feet up the tree. When I cranked on this come-along, the butt lifted right out of the crotch. Then, when I lowered the other come-along, the tree stayed away from the house.

The problem was that there wasn't enough cable in the first come-along to lower the tree all the way to the ground. So, with most of the cable out, I rigged my "fancy chain" from the cable end to the chain around the tree. Then when I relaxed the come-along the rest of the way, the chain took the load and the come-along cable went slack.

I wound the come-along back up, got a chain hook so I could rig the come-along hook to the "fancy chain". By tightening the come-along a little, I could release the loose end of the "fancy chain" and then lower the tree all the way to the ground. With the tree on the ground, I proceeded to limb it with my axe. With two limbs left to go, and after missing the branches several times and hitting the axe handle, I broke the axe handle. I got my big crosscut saw and used it to remove the last two limbs. I put 'axe handle' on my shopping list.

It was fun working with trees and logs and rigging in the rain again. I remembered that when I used to do that kind of work, I really didn't know what I was doing and I learned a lot by experimenting. This time, I had no doubts about what to do and I just went ahead and rigged things up and did the job like I knew what I was doing. It was great fun.

After lunch, I went back into the building to do some productive work. I planed, scraped, gouged, and rasped the bedroom window frame so that it was ready for varnish. Then I swept up all the chips and vacuumed the floor, walls, and window frame. Some time in the afternoon, it warmed up enough to let the snow loose on the roof that the top of the tree was stuck in. I heard it come sliding down the roof. I went out and saw that it had shot out onto the snowbank safely away from the building. Looking up at the roof, I could see that the ridge was crinkled a little, but there was no other obvious damage to the roof at all. I think that a thick layer of snow and ice had cushioned the blow from the trees and had lubricated them as they slid off the roof.

On Thursday morning, I got my 100 foot tape and measured the logs I had removed the day before. The one that had slid off the roof, tearing off the rake metal, and which lodged up against the foundation was 29 feet from butt to top. The one that was leaning up against the roof was 25 feet up to where it had broken off. I didn't measure the top of it, which was now on the other side of the building, but it looked to be about 10 feet long.

I varnished all the prepared surfaces and left for home at 1:30.

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