Construction Journal Entry Week of 10/21/18

10/23-25/18 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

The drive over was sort of rainy, but the leaves were still beautiful. I arrived at 11:50 and saw that Robert had parked his loader and his dump truck alongside his jammer and skidder, but he was not there.

I carried my gear up to the cabin, hoisted the flag, built a fire in the stove, and had my lunch. Robert and his new helper, Roger, showed up just as I finished eating. They did some maintenance work on their vehicles while I used my half-inch screen to harvest another 5 gallons of gravel. I wheelbarrowed the gravel up to the crawlspace and then rejoined the loggers.

They planned to fell three big trees up behind the privy. One of them had a big lump of mistletoe and Robert had already cut the branches off the trunk. The other two were higher up on the rock and were close to each other with their branches intertwined.

Robert was teaching Roger some techniques for climbing and cutting limbs, so Roger climbed the pine tree and removed the branches. When he came down, Robert climbed the big fir and finished the job. The branches were cleared for the first 50 feet or so.

While they were working, I got my impact driver and dismantled the top newel post on the concrete staircase. Robert was concerned that the trees he was going to fell would tear that post out. I removed the screws holding it to the concrete and pulled it up and out of the deep hole it was in. Then I laid it on the ground along with the handrail rope.

Then I placed all three rails on the back porch into their newel posts. The rails were all stained and I wanted to make sure they fit in place easily. They did. The top rail will have to be removed again in order to place the balusters, but the lower rail should stay in place permanently from now on even though it will be rotated and slid a little as the balusters are placed.

Before those three trees can be felled, the overhead cables from the spar tree to the bluff need to come down. Robert planned to use the jammer to do that. He tried to start the jammer motor, so he could use the motor to spin the drums and retrieve the cables, but even by jumping the battery with his pickup, he was unable to start it. Instead of using the motor, he said that we could do it by hand, so he gave up trying to start the motor.

The loggers left at 4:15 leaving me pretty well worn out. It felt good though.

On Wednesday morning Robert and Tess brought the dump truck over at 7:45 and then left before I could talk to them. I had my breakfast and then went out to work on the back porch rails.

I aligned the top and bottom rails in their final positions and then got the plumb bob out to make sure the holes were lined up plumb. I found that they were not aligned. The top rail needed to slide about a quarter of an inch to the left, but I could tell that the tenon was hitting the back wall of the mortise hole. So, I took the rail out and used my home-made rebar chisel to deepen the mortise hole by a quarter of an inch.

When I put the rail back in and rotated the rails just right, the holes lined up perfectly plumb. They were now ready for balusters.

Robert came back, and I went down to help him with some maintenance on the skidder. When my help was no longer needed, I went back to my rail project and began measuring for the baluster lengths. I was hoping all of the balusters could be the same length, but I found that the rails were curvy enough that I would need some different sizes. I couldn't easily determine what lengths would work so I had to individually measure the distance between the rails for each baluster position. There are 29 balusters, so I made and recorded 29 lengths and then went in for lunch and a nap.

Then, with all those numbers in front of me, I still couldn't figure out how many different lengths would work, so I made a drawing of the lengths and made some choices. I ended up deciding on four different lengths and I identified how many of each I needed and the holes they would go into. With that information, I was ready to cut rebar and make four batches of balusters. I didn't need to identify each individual baluster because they needed to be installed with the shortest ones on the left and the longer ones on the right. And it is easy to identify the short and long ones simply by bundling all of the balusters together and standing them up on the floor. The lengths are obvious then simply by looking at the tops of them.

I went out on the front porch and used Dr. Dick's rebar cutter/bender to cut balusters. I got about half of them cut when Robert showed up again. We went down to the bottom of Little Yosemite and tried to find Roger's bar wrench. He had dropped it the day before somewhere amongst the dreg logs. The ground was covered with big, and small, slabs of bark so there were many places for the wrench to hide. Then Roger came back, and he joined us in the search. He had a better idea of where to look so in a short time he found his wrench.

Robert and Roger loaded the dreg logs and Robert hauled them away in his dump truck.

I went back up to the porch and finished cutting all the balusters. Next, I used the wire wheel on the bench grinder and removed all the rust spots from the balusters. Then I used my dipping tank of paint thinner and a clean rag to wipe all the oil and dirt off all the balusters. They were then all ready for paint.

I loaded 15 of the shortest balusters into the painting rack and took them down and painted them before the end of the day.

On Thursday morning, I started out by filling a big garbage bag with a bunch of old ropes someone had given me. They were sisal ropes that were used for macramé projects and I found them to be utterly useless. They had no tensile strength at all, so I couldn't trust them for anything important. They had been lying in the crawlspace for maybe 20 years and it was time to get rid of them. I plan to haul away at least one bag of garbage from the crawlspace each week slowly cleaning it up before I began building the floor down there.

Next, I took the painted balusters out of the painting rack and installed them in the lower porch rail. The rail was rotated a little, so the balusters stuck out a little away from the cabin. They need to be in that position in order to get the top rail started once all the balusters are in. After all the balusters are seated in the top rail, the whole system will then be rotated back so that the top rail can go back into the Grid 2 mortise hole.

With the painting rack empty again, I loaded the remaining balusters into the rack and took it down and painted the balusters. Just as I finished, Robert and Roger came back.

I went down and helped them. The objective was to take down the big cables that were strung overhead from the jammer, up to blocks on the spar tree, and from there to two snatch blocks way up on the bluff.

First, Robert used a big hammer to beat the dogs out of the teeth of the ratchet wheels on the drums. Then with the brakes released and the frictions backed off, the three of us were able to turn the top drum by hand and let the cable pay out. This relaxed the cables enough so that we could undo the shackle that connected the cables in the middle.

With the cables relaxed, the three of us went up on the bluff to take the cables out of the snatch blocks that were secured to the tail tree and a stump. It took some beating with a big hammer to open the snatch blocks, but we did it. Then I stayed up on the bluff to watch that the cables didn't get tangled while the two loggers were down below pulling the cables down off the bluff. I was surprised that they could pull those heavy cables by hand, but I guess they got quite a bit of help from gravity.

At one point, after the cables were down, I took the opportunity to load into my truck a bunch of firewood rounds they had cut for me from the dreg logs down by the road. Then I drove the truck up around the hairpin turn to the upper roadway in front of the cabin. I stacked the rounds under the eaves on top of the existing pile of rounds and then backed the truck down and parked it.

It was getting close to noon which is when I usually leave but I told Robert that my schedule had relaxed, and I could stay longer if he wanted. He wanted to fell three trees up by the privy, so he and Roger went right to work on that. They carried their saws up to the trees and in an amazingly short time, Robert felled all three trees.

They started with what we called the mistletoe tree because it had a huge lump of mistletoe about 20 feet up. Robert laid the tree down right down the Little Yosemite valley. Roger went to work sawing off the mistletoe lump while Robert measured the trunk for bucking it into logs.

When the mistletoe lump was removed, Robert used his loader to pull the tree down the valley so that Roger could limb it. Then Robert bucked the tree into two big logs and stacked them near the road as the start of a log deck. Then we went back up to fell the two remaining trees. I took some videos of Robert making the undercuts and then he told me to get back down the road to get a video of the trees falling from that perspective. I hurried back down the concrete steps and about a minute later, those two big trees started falling almost straight toward me. I was safely out of the way, but it was still awesome. There was a huge wind that kicked up just as it landed but the wind didn't last long. I took some more pictures of the fallen trees and the loggers and then we all packed up and left. I drove away at about 2:00 very happy with the week's progress.

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