Construction Journal Entry Week of 7/6/14

7/8-11/14 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 4 days: Tuesday through Friday.

On the way up I stopped and visited with Uncle Charles. He was napping when I got there, but shortly after, a caregiver came in and asked him to get up and go get a haircut. He got up and the three of us walked across the grounds to the salon. Then I left and headed for the mountains.

I arrived at Camp Serendipity at 1:10. It was a hot 90 outside. I was happy that there were no signs of mice in the traps. Since it had been two weeks since I had been there, I was afraid that mice would have gotten in. It's starting to look like all the mice that have gotten in recently have come in through the damaged roof. But now that it is completely fixed, I hope that there will be no more mice. It looks like that might be the case.

After bringing in my gear, hoisting the flag, and turning on the sequoia irrigation valve, I had my lunch and a nap. When I got up, I went into the woods to check on Brian, the sequoia tree. No water was coming out of the hose so the tree was dry. That meant that there were just too many leaks in the hose.

I went back to the cabin, but on the way, I inspected the hose to find where the worst leaks were. Then I turned the valve off, got a roll of duct tape, went back into the woods and taped up the three worst leaks in the hose. Back at the cabin, I turned the valve on again and went into the woods to check. This time water was running out of the end of the hose and watering Brian. While I was in the woods, I filled a bucket with water and watered Andrew. That tree looks healthy but the dirt around it was bone dry so I figured it would be best to water it. I figured the rest of the sequoia trees didn't need water and I considered not watering them any more at all. I'll keep an eye on them though and if they start looking like they need it, I might water them some more later. We'll see.

Since I was already up to Andrew, I decided to walk up over the ridge and check on the spring. What I found was that several big trees had fallen over and there were a bunch of branches around and on top of the springbox. I removed and cleaned up all the debris and learned that there had been no damage to the springbox or the plumbing. I was glad of that. I was also happy that even though they weren't gone, there were noticeably fewer mosquitoes than there had been a couple weeks earlier. Hopefully the mosquito season is coming to a close.

In the evening, when I was expecting my usual call from Ellen, the phone rang. When I answered all I got was a loud buzzing. I got the same buzzing whenever I picked up any of my three telephones in the cabin. Since the phone obviously was not working, and Ellen was trying to call, I decided to take my cell phone out to the road and walk down the road until I got cell service. I know I can always get it at the schoolbus turnaround, but sometimes I can get it sooner.

When I got to Bartholomew's, their dog greeted me and I saw Nancy outside. Dave also came out and I told them about my problem. They invited me in to use their telephone to call Ellen. They also gave me the sad news that Bert had died. They found his body in a field where he had gone off to be alone. I will miss him, just as all the neighbors will.

Ellen had been trying to call me all this time, so when I called her, her line was busy. Eventually, we connected up and I told her that if the phone wasn't fixed the next day, I would go to the turnaround and call her at 8 PM on my cell phone.

On Wednesday I drove to the turnaround at 6:30 AM and reported my phone outage to Frontier. I was told that they couldn't work on it that day but would get to it the next day, Thursday. I was a little disappointed, but there was nothing I could do about it.

Back at the cabin I inspected my phone lines but since the phones were obviously still connected to the central office, because they rang when Ellen called, and since all three of my phones behaved the same, I was convinced that the problem was the phone company's and not mine. Still, I did a visual inspection of all of my phone wires inside the cabin.

Next I put back the planks on the scaffolding that I had borrowed in order to use outside when I fixed the roof. Then I nailed up the last few ceiling boards that I could reach from the scaffolding the way it was. Finally, I caulked between the ceiling and gable walls and between the ceiling boards and the Grid D purlin. That finished up the work that could be reached from the scaffold in its current position. The next step was to move and reconfigure the scaffolds in order to reach higher up on the ceiling.

After lunch and a nap, I went into the woods to make sure Brian was getting watered. It was. The duct tape was holding.

I started reconfiguring the scaffolding by moving the two towers about 5 feet toward the Grid A side of the cabin. The two-tier tower in the living room was moved over so it was right up against the edge of the loft staircase. The one-tier tower in the loft was moved the same distance and direction. Before I moved either tower, I had removed the two pieces of OSB from the 10-foot 4x4s that spanned between the two towers. The 4x4s mostly went along for the ride, but at one point, I had to pull one out and replace it on the other side of the stovepipe as the scaffold moved past the stovepipe.

It is a little tricky moving those 4x4s because you can only reach one end and they are 10 feet long. To do it, I place a long 2x4 across the span and then slide the 4x4 across the 2x4 until I can grab and hold it. I use the same technique in reverse to put the 4x4 back.

Once the scaffold towers were in the final position, I brought in two more scaffold frames and the two cross braces for them. I leaned the frames up against the tower so they would be ready to lift up to the top. By that time, I was hot and sweaty and ready for a shower.

I had just gotten undressed and ready to step into the shower when Earl knocked on the door. I got dressed again and went out for a nice visit with him. When I told him about my telephone troubles, he suggested we check the box on the outside where the phone company cable connects to mine. The plan was to plug a phone directly into the phone company wire to prove that the problem was theirs and not mine.

We opened the box and tried to figure out the wiring. We expected to find an RJ-11 jack in there that we could plug the phone into, but there wasn't one. We couldn't see anything obviously wrong and we couldn't figure out how to connect the phone, so we gave up and closed up the box again.

After Earl left, I had my shower and my dinner and then drove to the turnaround at 8:00 and called Ellen. I told her I would do the same thing the next day if the phone didn't get fixed.

On Thursday morning, I got up at 4:45 to take advantage of the morning coolness. After hoisting the flag, turning on Brian's valve, and having my breakfast, I got a rope and used it to hoist the two scaffold frames to the top of the living room tower and set them up to form the third tier on the tower. Then I placed the cross braces and had a nice sturdy addition to the scaffold tower. Now I just needed to raise the platform from where it was to about 3 feet higher.

That put the platform on the top of the loft tower and about halfway up the living room tower. It was a little tricky figuring out the sequence of steps necessary to reassign, lift, remove, and replace the various components of the scaffold system. Once I had it figured out, I went through the steps and got a new platform placed so that I had access to the entire ridgepole all the way across the cabin. From there, I can finish nailing the boards between Grids C and D, including fitting them around the stovepipe and the ceiling vent. It will also allow access to the ridgepole so that I can install a ceiling fan if I want. I haven't decided yet whether to install it from the scaffold where it is now or wait until I work on the other side of the ridgepole between Grids B and C. I'll make that decision later.

Once my new platform was ready, I got on it and inspected the ceiling where the next boards needed to go. I made an awful discovery. Up next to the gable wall at Grid C.5,1 the plastic sheeting under the insulation was bulging down and I could see that it was discolored. When I pushed up on it, it felt heavier than the rest of the insulation. There was obviously a rodent nest up in the insulation there. It needed a caesarian section to release and remove the mess and I knew it could be ugly. I started thinking about how I was going to clean it up with the least mess.

The time was 11:30 AM and I decided to drive to the turnaround to call the phone company and check on the repair of my phone. I was told that they had tested my line, found that it wasn't working, and that it was because of a "common cause". The woman I was talking to explained that there was a general outage affecting many phones and that my phone was one of them. That meant that they wouldn't be spending any time on my phone or my problem but when they fixed the "common cause", my problem should be solved.

Since I had used Bartholomew's phone to talk to Ellen, I knew that other phones were working in the neighborhood so I asked the woman how many phones were out in the area. She said, "No problem, sir, I can look that up....Let's Washington state there are...four outages". I asked where they were and she said there was one in Everett, one in Kennewick, and the other two in cities hundreds of miles apart. There was none in Leavenworth or Wenatchee so I wasn't among the four.

I told her that I didn't have any confidence that my phone was going to get fixed and that I would like to arrange for someone to call me with a status report since I couldn't call out. We agreed that a service technician would call me on my cell phone at 4:30 in the afternoon and I promised to be at the schoolbus turnaround then to receive the call.

Back at the cabin I had my lunch and my usual nap. When I got up, I faced the ugly problem of the mouse mess in the insulation. I found a big cardboard box that was just the right size to hold a big black garbage bag with the mouth of the bag stretched around the top of the box. I lined it with two garbage bags.

Then I got a TV tray on a stand that I set on the scaffold deck just under the mouse mess. With the garbage bag box sitting on the TV tray, it was in the perfect position to catch whatever fell out from between the rafters.

With my gloves and my respirator on, I gingerly cut the plastic to leave a flap that would channel the debris down into the waiting box. As I pulled the insulation out, it was followed by a torrent of mouse crap, seed husks, peanuts, soiled insulation, and other unidentified debris. Almost all of it went right into the box. It was all very dry which told me that it had been deposited some time ago and the heat of the ceiling had dried it out. I figured that the mice, or packrats, or whomever, had been active during the winter after the roof had been damaged, and now that the weather was so hot, they had been driven out. Moreover, they were now shut out by my roof repair job.

All of the mess seemed to be localized in a 13 inch section of insulation between the first two rafters from the wall. I used Gus' razor sharp hunting knife to cut the bad insulation from the good insulation. Then I used it to cut a 13 inch section from a new roll of insulation I had in the crawl space.

I stuffed the new insulation up between the rafters, stapled the plastic sheeting back in place, and then duct taped the seams where I had cut the plastic. Finally I tied up the garbage bag and took it down to the truck to carry it home for disposal. The job was not as messy as I had feared but I was glad it was done. I am now ready to nail boards over that area.

At 4:15 I got in the truck and headed for the turnaround for my scheduled call. On the way I saw a Frontier truck parked on the side of the road and a guy working on a telephone pedestal in the ditch. It was still 5 minutes before my call time so I got out and talked to him.

He told me that he had never heard of me or my problem and that he was working on an outage several miles further up the road. He said he is working toward the problem step by step and that his instruments told him that the next problem was 1500 feet further up the road. I told him that that was me! My driveway is 1500 feet up the road.

Since he was headed for my driveway I decided to skip my call at the turnaround and follow the repairman. Better a bird in the hand than one in the bush. He said my outage was caused by a break in the line well beyond my connection. So to fix my problem, he did something he called a "field snip", or some such name. He simply cut my pair of wires just beyond where it connected to my wiring and it fixed my problem. Then he closed up the pedestal and continued up the road looking for the break in the line. I was just happy to have my phone service restored.

At 5:00 I called Ellen and told her that the phone was fixed and that she could call me later in the evening. Later when she did call, she told me that she couldn't get through using any of our land line phones but that she could get through using her cell phone. That didn't make any sense to me but she proved it by trying all the different phones we have and the cell phone was the only way to get through. After we hung up, I called Earl and asked him to call me back to make a test. He was able to call me from a land line in the same area code so the mystery became even more baffling. I didn't understand it.

On Friday morning I got up at 5:30 and started work. This was forecast to be a very hot day and I wanted to take advantage of the cool of the morning. After turning on Brian's valve, I nailed up a course of ceiling boards before it got too hot up there. Then I checked on Brian and found that it was getting water just fine.

I needed to get to Priscilla's on the way home to help her so I had to leave early. I took a nap between 9:30 and 10:30. Then I had an early lunch and left for home shortly after noon. I was happy finally getting back to the ceiling installation, although I would much rather have been able to do it during the winter as I had planned. When I got home, I called in another trouble report to Frontier explaining the latest symptoms.

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