Construction Journal Entry Week of 1/11/09

1/13-15/09 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I arrived at 1:45. Bert and Ernie were right there to greet me. The weather was mild and clear and the snow had shrunk way down from the rain and thawing. There was only about 2 feet left on the ground. Mike had plowed the driveway halfway to the trailer and the ground was bare where he had plowed. The trails were treacherous because you could barely see where the trail was and if you stepped off the trail, you would sink to your knees in soft snow.

I was happy to discover that the PUD had disconnected my temporary power and removed the meter. I had requested them to do that several times over the past few months. Now, finally, I expect to see the charges for it disappear from my power bill.

I brought a dresser with me that Joe and Lisa had given us. After moving in, I carried the dresser up and put it in the loft. I carried the drawers separately and then used a hand truck to pull the dresser itself up the concrete staircase and up the back stairs into the back door. I used a rope to pull it up into the loft. Two handles needed repair so I fixed them.

It was comfortable working in the loft even though I hadn't made a fire. The bright sunshine had warmed the place up. But after I was done with the dresser, I got a bunch of firewood and built a fire in the wood stove. In the process I checked the privy and was pleased to see that it had not flooded.

Next, I decided to have some fun making a video of an experiment suggested by my High School math teacher. The problem is to determine the surface generated by the edges of a cube when it is rotated about one of its principle diagonals. Bob had suggested running a dowel through the diagonal of a cubical box and spinning it with an electric drill. I had a cubical box that my new heater came in, so I took Bob's suggestion and did the experiment. I set up a tripod and made a video of it. It was great fun and it turned out pretty good.

Next I installed the electrical box for the motion sensing light on a four-foot piece of 1x8 of the type I will use for the ceilings under the rafters. I was a little careless at one point and sort of injured my left thumb with a rotating spade bit. It bled a little, but was only a couple scrapes in the skin.

When I went in for the night, I made some decisions and arrived at a more-or-less final design for circuit number 6 which will contain the porch lights including the motion light and the front flood lights. I will have a flood light fixture at both the Grid G3 and A3 corners of the roof. The G3 one will light the upper roadway aiming at the hairpin turn and the roadway in front of the building. The A3 one will light the trail to the woodshed and the top of the concrete staircase. The porch will be lighted by three fixtures, all operated by the single switch in Box J. The motion light will be under the eaves at the head of the stairs and should serve to light the stairs.

On Wednesday, it was clear, calm, and pretty cold -- about 25 degrees. The snow was frozen hard so you could walk on it anywhere without falling through. I decided that this would be a good day to check out a big tree that had fallen a couple years ago. It had fallen from the top of the cliff above the driveway and the top of it was down pretty near to the road. The entire trunk was off the ground except where it touched the cliff edge on top, and the top of the trunk lying on the ground down below. I had spudded the bark off right after it first fell, so it was safe from deterioration for a few years. I wasn't sure how good the wood was, so I decided to find out.

The butt was sticking about 8 feet above the cliff with a huge root ball full of dirt and boulders sticking up in the air. I got the chainsaw out, sharpened the chain, spudded the bark off the trunk where I wanted to cut, and I cut 7 feet of the butt off. All of the sapwood was deteriorated where I cut, but the heartwood was perfectly sound. Then I went down to the road and cut the top of the trunk off where it was 10 inches in diameter. Here the wood was all sound and beautiful. I could see that most of the entire trunk was good and sound. And, the log was nice and straight. I decided that it would be well worth harvesting, if not now, then later.

I climbed up the snowbank on the cliffside and with the chainsaw, cut off all the limbs and stubs to make the log as smooth for dragging as possible. Then I got out a couple chains and a come-along and went to work to see if I could possibly pull the log up the hill.

It was fun logging again, and the sunny weather made the work very pleasant. I felt sort of proud of my rigging for getting almost all the slack out of it. I had rigged the come-along with the cable completely unrolled. You get the maximum power on the first winding of the cable around the spool because the diameter is smaller. So when I started cranking, I had all the slack taken up while I was still on the first winding.

In two or three more clicks, the come-along was maxed out and the trunk hadn't budged at all. With the tension still on the cable, I went in and got the big steel bar to use as a lever against the rock to see if I could move the log and judge how close I was to being able to drag it. I could move the log with the bar, but only barely. I could see that the only motion I could get was because I was bending the log. It was stuck very tight and I could see there was no way to move it unless I could loosen it up.

With the tension still on the cable, I went back down to the road and tried to move the top of the log hoping to wiggle it enough to break it loose from whatever was holding it. I couldn't budge it at all. I decided that it was going to take a lot more than I was willing to do at the moment in order to move this log, so I went back on top to remove my rigging.

I needed to back the come-along off enough to relax the chains so I could unhook them. So, I started backing it off. About the time the rigging started to go slack, the log slid down the hill a few inches and tightened the rigging back up. I backed it off some more and the same thing happened. Now I realized that the rigging I was so proud of earlier was really a dumb mistake. I should have left more cable on the spool so that I would have something to unroll in order to handle the backsliding log. As it was, the cable was all paid out and my rigging was still as tight as a guitar string. It was stuck.

So, I went back to the cabin, got two more chains and another come-along. I hooked this one to the same chain at the top and to the tight choker below where it was hooked to itself. The two come-alongs interfered with each other, which was another minor rigging blunder, but eventually I was able to use the second come-along to slack the first chain enough to unhook it. Then, since I had left plenty of cable on the second spool, I was able to unwind it until the log stopped sliding and I was able to remove all the rigging. I felt a little humbled.

By the time I got all my chains and come-alongs put back, it was time for lunch and the snow was softening up. I fell through the snow several times before I finished.

After lunch, I wired up the box for the motion light and nailed the board containing the box to the underside of the rafters at the head of the front stairs. Since it was so sunny and beautiful out, I decided this would be the time to stain the plank ends on the back porch and the spots on the front porch where I had scraped. Then I realized that I had never stained the last three of the four log treads I had installed on the front staircase. The bottom one of the four had been stained but not the next three. By now those three were dark with UV damage and dirt. I decided to plane and scrape them and stain them since I was going to get a brush wet anyway.

I used the power planer to get what I could and I used a scraper for the rest and cleaned the three treads up ready for stain. It was a lot of hard work, but when the beautiful new wood shows through after scraping, the reward makes it worth it. It was starting to get dark so I started at the back porch where I didn't have any light. Then I moved to the front porch where the light was dim, but at least I had a light. Finally, I stained the four treads on the stairs. I had a good light over them. I stained the three I had scraped and I put another coat on the bottom tread as well. It takes a lot of abuse and is covered with snow for most of the winter. I was very pleased with how they looked when I finished. I cleaned out my brush and went in for the night.

On Thursday morning it was clear, cold, and beautiful again. Since I could walk on top of the snow again, I decided to walk over and measure the tree I had cut. I learned that the butt I had cut off was 7 feet long and the diameter where I had cut it was 14 inches. On my way back, Bert and Ernie came loping into the woods and they followed me back down to the trailer where I got them each a treat.

Bill called me and we had a pleasant chat. Then I went to work in the loft on the wiring for the porch lights. I needed to run two more cables out there, one for the floods and one for the porch lights. The hard part is passing from the log wall corner at Grid E1 into the rafters. To do that, I had installed a short elbow of 3/4" EMT to house two romex cables and the electrical inspector had approved it. I needed one more like that for the other two cables.

There was a little less room for the second one, but I was a little better at doing it, so in a couple hours, I had the elbow installed, and I had flashed the work with metal to make it mouse proof. I felt pretty good about getting that done. From here on out, it is simply a matter of stringing wire and hooking up boxes and fixtures.

Before I quit for the week, I labeled some wires using the new wire label kit I had bought, and I swept out the trailer and beat the rugs. Bert and Ernie came by again and I gave them some more dog biscuits before I left at 1:50. It was a fun week.

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