Construction Journal Entry Week of 8/20/17

8/22-24/17 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I got off to a slow start and arrived at 1:45. The temperature was 84. There were no mice in the traps. I turned on the valve to water Brian and Paul and then had my lunch and a nap.

When I got up, I went into the woods and checked on the sequoia trees. Brian and Paul were getting water and they looked OK. But Andrew wasn't looking very well. At least half of the branches were brown. The top was green and looked like it was slowly growing but I think those lower branches are dead. I went back to the cabin, got a bucket, and gave Andrew a couple gallons of water.

While the first gallon was soaking in, I went over to the spring to check it out. There was no water coming out of the overflow pipe. That was bad news. I began mulling over what, if anything, I was going to do about it.

Back at the cabin, I used a plumb bob hanging over the stair rail to lay strips of masking tape on the treads under the center line of the rail. I had a little trouble getting the masking tape to stick down because of the stain on the treads, but I finally got it to work.

On Wednesday, Dave called first thing and we had another great conversation. Before breakfast I turned on the valve for Brian and Paul. After breakfast, I turned the valve off and went into the woods. I wanted to see whether any water was flowing out of the overflow pipe if all of my fixtures, including the irrigation hose, were turned off. I went up to the spring and saw that water was indeed flowing out the overflow. Evidently the spring, with its leaks, can't quite keep up with the irrigation water flow. I decided that until the flow volume goes back up in the fall, I will leave the valves closed even while I am gone. There will still be some flow in the pipes because of leaks down by the creek so the water will still stay fresh and cold in the pipes.

On the way back from the spring, I found the decayed carcass of some animal. It was mostly skeleton and it was curled up. It looked to be a foot long without its tail. The skull was about 2 inches long. There were still some remains of a tail with coarse fur about 4 inches long sort of yellowish in color with a black band halfway down. I didn't spend any time examining the teeth or anything, but I did carry it back down and put it on a log closer to the trailhead. I'll ask Ron Sideritz about it next time I see him. Meanwhile, I'll let the ants clean the carcass up far away from the cabin.

When I got back to the cabin, the rail and staircase were in direct sun so I hauled up on my tackle and raised my tarp shade. It worked great and went up fast.

Next, I drew a center line on the tapes on the treads. I used a plumb bob again, but this time hanging from a loose loop of string around the rail. The loop centered the plumb bob under the rail. At two points on each tread, I made a mark at the plumb bob. Then I connected those marks to draw the center line.

Under two of the treads, the stringer stuck up too high. I knew that someday I would have to fix that, and today was the day. First, I tried the small vibrating saw for the horizontal cut and part of the vertical cut, but it was too slow and didn't cut deep enough. Then I tried a regular hand crosscut saw to make the vertical cut. It worked pretty well, but it was slow and tedious. So, I switched to the big one-man crosscut saw and it worked great. I could make two-foot long strokes so I cut both vertical kerfs with that in no time. Then I got the Bosch Bulldog with the wood chisel bit and it worked perfectly to cut the wood away down to a horizontal surface in the plane of the tread surface. I swept up the chips and put them in the "curly fries" bin in the cabin for use in starting fires in the stove next winter.

In the middle of that job, Bill had called to confirm our meeting at 9 AM at Elbe to start our hike to the High Rock Lookout. He told me that a friend of his name Terry would be joining us. We had a short conversation and I went back to work on the stringer notches.

After lunch and a nap, I eyeballed my center line from a number of different positions and adjusted it here and there in order to make a nice smooth curve for the baluster placements. Then, using a ruler and a plumb bob, I laid out the positions on the center line for all 32 balusters.

Then, for each baluster position, I marked the location on the underside of the rail by holding the string with my thumb up against the rail and adjusting it until the plumb bob was just touching the mark below. Then I used a pencil to mark the location above my thumbnail where the string pressed against the rail. It was tedious, but I got all 32 positions marked. All 64 positions were now ready for drilling.

On Thursday morning, I found what I think might be the way the mice get into the cabin. There is a big check in a log up on the wall between the back door and the Grid A1 corner. There is another big check on the next lower log on the inside on the other side of the corner. There may be a channel inside the corner where the logs butt and pass that might allow a mouse to go in one check and come out the other. So, I used pieces of hardware cloth to make plugs that I jammed into those checks, and then caulked over the top of those. I'm sure that will make an effective plug.

Then, in case the mice can still get in, I strategically placed eight peanuts around the inside perimeter of the cabin. I put one peanut each in the utility room, the bathroom, the bedroom, and the entry room, and I put two peanuts in the dining room and two in the living room. The peanuts are where I can easily see them and they are sort of between the traps that I set. The plan is that if I catch any more mice, I may be able to figure out the direction they came from by which peanuts are missing. That might at least give me some clues as to where to look for more breaches.

With that done, I went back out on the porch and drilled the 32 pilot/weep holes in the treads. Then I got a 7/16" bit and drilled a one-inch deep hole using the 32 pilot holes. As I went, I plugged each hole with a scrap piece of rebar for a couple reasons. One is that it proved that the rebar balusters would seat properly in the holes, and the other is that the rebar would prevent mason bees from plugging up the holes while I am gone. Before I quit for the week, I took a picture of the rebar scraps sticking up out of the holes. I left for home at 12:50 happy with the week.

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