Construction Journal Entry Week of 7/12/20

7/13-17/20 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 5 days: Monday through Friday.

This was a great week. My dizziness was completely gone, and I was back to normal. I arrived at 11:17. The temperature was a pleasant 63 degrees and there was enough breeze to blow away at least some of the mosquitoes.

I brought my gear up to the cabin, hoisted the flag, left another message for the building inspector to call me, and then had my lunch and my usual nap. When I got up, I went up to the bluff and checked on Paul. It is still scrawny, but it is a nice green color and is growing, however slowly. From there, I went up and irrigated Andrew with 5 gallons of water.

Back in the cabin, I placed a few more flooring planks in the loft.

On Tuesday morning, Rich Campbell, the building inspector, called. He said he would try to get here tomorrow but he would call first and let me know. I spent the rest of the morning placing planks in the floor above the kitchen and finished the entire area inside the railing.

After lunch and a nap, I went out and irrigated Andrew. Then I drained both batteries for the string trimmer by whacking down the weeds on the upper roadway and part of the lower roadway. Then I went into the crawl space and tidied some things up a bit to make it a little more presentable to the inspector.

On Wednesday, I finished placing flooring planks on the skinny strip around the kitchen ceiling and outside the railings. Then I started moving furniture back on top of the newly laid floor.

Rich Campbell called right at noon and said he would be here in 20 minutes. When he arrived, he told me that he was going to conduct a complete final inspection even though he knows that the floor insulation needs to be done. He said that would just be left as one among whatever other items he might discover that I needed to do.

He was complimentary about my work as he moved around and through the building checking things. He seemed surprised at the tolerances in my log staircases and he seemed impressed with the dramatically curved vine-maple railings on the front staircase.

Of the seven items left to do from the previous inspection, all but one, the insulation, were satisfactorily completed. He did, however, find an additional five items for a new list. Counting the insulation, there were six items to do on the list he left with me: five for me and one for him.

He needed to check the rules to see whether the hearth under my wood stove was big enough, and I had two easy items and two rather hard items plus the insulation. The easy ones were to tighten the screws on the treads on the back stairs. The log treads had shrunk leaving them a little loose. The other easy one was to insulate the pipes coming out of the water heater.

The two hard items were to make a "legal" landing at the foot of the front porch staircase. He said a staircase can't end in dirt like mine does. He said paving the landing with rocks would work, and that is what I plan to do. The other item is to strap the water heater down for seismic. Since the water heater is free-standing in the middle of the floor, there is nothing handy to strap it to. Rich said that he was sure I was clever enough to think of some way to do it.

After Rich left, I had my lunch and nap. Then I called Gale Insulation and was told that Sean would call me back on Thursday so I could arrange for the insulation job. Next, I went into the woods and watered Andrew. When I got back, I moved more furniture in the loft to get things more back to normal. In the process, Rich called twice. The first time he congratulated me on the good inspection, but he stressed that he was in a hurry to finalize the process. He said he had extended my building permit into August, but he encouraged me to get those five items finished as soon as possible. He called back again and reported that my hearth met the requirements for size so that was checked off the list.

After we hung up, I completed item #6 by tightening up the lag screws on the back staircase.

On Thursday morning, Robert called, and we had a fairly long conversation. He told me how vulnerable he felt for a forest fire at his place. He was busy moving his most valuable tools and equipment from his shop to Leavenworth and he needed to move one of his three vehicles to Leavenworth too. He said that if a fire broke out, the two of them could take only two vehicles out to make their escape. He said that it was going to be a hundred degrees out next week and with the wind and the abundance of pine needles on the ground and the thick canopy, it was set to explode. I told him that I didn't feel quite so vulnerable at my place, but that I was eager to get my occupancy permit so that I could at least insure the place.

We also talked about my recent inspection experience and my problem of figuring out how to anchor the water heater. I told him that I would probably have to use three guy wires going from the water heater to columns or bedrock outcroppings, but that would really make it awkward for foot traffic around the heater. He suggested a wonderful alternative: instead of using guys, which act only in tension, I could use struts which would also act in compression. That way I would only need two, and those could be placed on the side away from foot traffic. And they could be anchored easily in bedrock outcrops. Robert asked if I could drill through the bedrock and I assured him that I could. I told him that I could use either pipes or angle iron for the struts. When we hung up, I was sure I had a workable solution to the problem.

Next, Dave called and explained why he hadn't called for the past few weeks. He had been very busy with his business. For many reasons, including the business-hostile climate of Seattle, he had moved his entire business out of Seattle and down to Phoenix. We talked for quite a while and we each caught the other up on what we had been doing.

When we hung up, I went down and worked in the crawl space. I gathered up enough steel straps to make the two bands I need to wrap around the water heater, and I located the nuts and bolts I need to connect the straps to each other and to the struts. I also found one pipe that would work as a strut, but I need four.

In the process of scrounging and tidying things, I ran across an unopened package containing a roll of pipe insulation. I opened the package and used the insulation to wrap the two water lines connected to the water heater. The insulation was exactly the right length to do the job to the inch. More Serendipity. That checked item #2 off my list.

Next was a really awful job. I had temporarily stuffed fiberglass insulation up around the water lines running through the joists. This had to be removed before the Gale insulators went to work. But what I didn't realize was that during the long rodent wars, the mice had gotten into that temporary insulation and made a real mess of it with their urine and poop. I got a big trash bag and tried to capture all the mess in the bag as I pulled the insulation down. I wore a respirator and caught most of it in the bag, but it was still a job worthy of Mike Rowe's attention. I got most of the insulation removed and in the bag and ended up with a very stuffed bag.

Next, I spread a bunch of clean gravel into the drainage channel in the crawl space floor. I had a couple buckets full of those rocks and I figured I better get them in place before the insulators start walking around in there. Then, to make it easier for them to walk around, I started hauling bulky things, like boxes and buckets, outside and into the wheelbarrow. Then I wheeled them up to the privy and stored them inside. I was pleased at how much space there was available in the privy and how much stuff I could store in there. If I ran out of space, I plan to use the woodshed for additional space. I think that between the two of them, there will be enough room for everything I need to move.

I had not yet heard from Gale and it was getting toward noon, so I called them again. I talked to Sean and he agreed to come up next Wednesday, July 22, and plan for the insulation job. After my experience that morning, I was glad to have the extra week to square away the crawlspace before he gets there. There is a lot more to do.

After lunch and a nap, I watered Andrew. Then back in the crawl space, I thought about my water heater anchor and chose a couple of rock ridges that looked like they would make good anchors for the struts. I decided to do a proof of concept by drilling a hole through one of them. I used the Bosch Bulldog and a half-inch bit and drilled a hole all the way through the granite where it was about eight inches thick. The drill bit got stuck after it came out the other side and I had a heck of a time getting it out. I ended up using a vise-grip to work the bit loose and then a big hammer pounding against the vise-grip to drive the bit back out of the rock. It reminded me of getting Excalibur pulled out of the rock.

After the bit was out, I ran a half-inch allthread through the hole which proved the concept. I felt good about the strategy for building the seismic restraint. I had also given considerable thought about how to build the legal stair landing for the front. The thought of wrestling big rocks like I did when I was in my 50s seemed a little daunting now that I am in my 80s. But, more Serendipity, the landing is almost directly below the hook on my porch crane. It is directly below the Camp Serendipity sign so I can run the cable from the crane through a pulley anchored by the anchor hook holding up the sign and have the cable dangle directly above the work area. Then I can use the crane to lift, manipulate, and place the rocks exactly where I want them in order to pave the landing.

Better yet, there is a supply of nice big flat rocks just to the east of the lower newel post. I can run a cable over there and use the crane to drag them over to the work area simply by pressing a button with my thumb. It's going to be fun, except that is, for the heat and the mosquitoes. But it will be fun anyway.

On Friday, I sort of relaxed and didn't do much hard work. I did a thorough, long over-due cleaning job on the microwave; I moved the ladder out of the crawlspace; I loaded the stuffed garbage bag of old insulation into the truck; I irrigated Andrew; and I picked the first of the wild blackberries that had just ripened. I got about one cottage cheese container full. There will be many more next week the way it looks. I left for home at 1:00 feeling very happy about the developments this week.

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