Construction Journal Entry Week of 9/6/20

9/7-11/20 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 5 days: Monday through Friday.

The temperature was 72 degrees when I arrived at 11:40. After bringing my gear up in two trips, I hoisted the flag, had my lunch, and my usual nap. When I got up, I noticed that the air had turned smoky. I figured that there must be some new fires somewhere.

I went into the woods and was happy to see that a lizard was taking advantage of a leak in the irrigation hose caused by an animal bite. After irrigating Andrew, I went down to the truck and loaded a fairly big flat rock to deliver to Joe.

On Tuesday morning it was smoky inside the cabin as well as outside. I had left all the windows open overnight and that was a mistake. I shut the windows and then wore a NIOSH respirator all day.

After breakfast I tried using 409 cleaner on the mortar mixing pan. The inside surface was still oily to the touch. I scrubbed the 409 into the pan with a brush and then rinsed it with water. I was very happy with the result. The pan no longer felt oily.

Next, I tried various tools to dismantle an old concrete mixing box I had made and after considerable work, I gave up. Those rusty nails just didn't want to come out of those old-growth 2x8s. I decided that the thing wasn't worth salvaging so it is destined for the landfill.

Then I went to work in the crawl space clearing off the big concrete fireplace footing pad. It was mostly garbage, which I put in a bag, but there were some materials and other artifacts that I cleaned and put away in appropriate places.

Among the items was a 5-gallon bucket of black foundation sealer. I thought that might work to seal the plastic I planned to put down against the foundation wall and against the concrete pads. I opened the bucket and saw that it had separated with about 2 inches of liquid on the top. But when I went to stir it with a stick, I found that the solids were really solid and crumbly and showed no possibility of dissolving in the liquid. The bucket was completely unusable. It had a garage-sale price tag of $3.50 on the lid so I must have picked it up at a garage sale at one time. That was a waste of $3.50 and the trouble to take it to a hazmat disposal.

I also found a can of Elixir, which is an aluminized coating for RV roofs. I thought that might work to glue the plastic to the concrete. I opened the can and stirred it up. It seemed to be in good condition, so I got a small scrap of plastic and glued it to the side of a concrete pad as an experiment.

After lunch and a nap, I went into the woods and irrigated Andrew. This time, while I was standing still for a while thinking, a pine squirrel approached me, stopped, looked at me, and then went straight for a small pool formed by the leak in my irrigation hose. I guess he wanted a drink badly enough that he didn't mind my presence. I was glad I was able to supply him with water.

I spent the rest of the afternoon listening to music and relaxing inside the cabin, which was now much less smoky than outside. I left the windows closed day and night for the rest of the week.

On Wednesday morning the temperature outside was 32 degrees and it was still very smoky. Robert called and told me that in addition to a big fire between Ellensburg and Yakima, there were fires in the Okanogan, at Lake Chelan and in Western Washington along I-5. I'm not sure whose smoke we were getting.

While I was on the phone with Robert, I watched out the window as the sheep herders moved their big flock of sheep on the highway heading up the valley. I guess they must have eaten up all the grass down here and were ready to move on.

Sometime during the morning, I got a great organizing idea for the crawl space. There were several objectives and problems that this idea seemed to solve. The overall objective was to clear everything off the dirt floor so that it could be raked smooth and then covered with plastic. The biggest area of the floor yet to be cleared was under a big stack of concrete blocks. I needed a place to store those blocks to get them off the floor.

Another problem was that there were a lot of long, skinny things that were either on the floor or in the way, that also need a place to get stored. These were things like pipes, allthreads, rebar, long bolts, and long-handled tools like rakes, hoes, and a spud.

The idea that came to me was to completely clear off the fireplace footing pad and sweep it clean. Then lay all the concrete blocks on the pad with flat sides up and all the holes aligned in the same direction. I did some counting and calculations and figured that there were just enough blocks to cover the pad in three layers.

That would provide a nice flat surface at about table-top height, which could be used to store things, or provide a base for shelving to store even more things. Better yet, the array of holes in the blocks would open up on each end of the stack of blocks and they could be used as pigeonholes for storing the pipes, rebar, long-handled tools, etc. It would solve all the problems.

I eagerly went to work to implement the plan. I started by clearing off one half of the pad. In the process, one of the long-handled tools I found was a stiff brush mounted on a long handle that would make the perfect tool for cleaning the pad, the blocks, and the items that I pulled out of the mess that they were in.

After the first half of the pad was cleared, I tackled the other half. I knew that in years past I had used the pad for storing mortar sand and concrete aggregate. I had made a crib of concrete blocks, which got smaller as I used up the materials. Now I could see that the crib was only a foot or so wide and that it was covered with a lid of concrete blocks. When I uncovered the lid, I was surprised to see that there wasn't much aggregate in there at all, and it was a mixture of sand and gravel. I used a screen of hardware cloth to separate the sand from the gravel and I got about a gallon or two of each.

Then I removed and temporarily stacked all the concrete blocks from the pad and finally brushed and swept the entire pad so that it was ready for the first course of blocks for my planned structure. I even began placing a few blocks before I stopped for lunch and a nap.

When I got up, I went into the woods to irrigate Andrew. I found that the bucket up by Brian had been tipped over and was now empty. I don't know whether an animal did that or whether I had been careless in providing a solid footing for it. In any case, it needed to get filled again so I set it back up and stuck the hose into it.

I noticed that the flow from the hose was very slow and I knew that was because of the many leaks in the hose. I decided to use the time I had to wait for the bucket to fill by patching the worst of the leaks. That happened to be down by the cabin not far from the spigot.

There were several leaks down there which had been duct taped several times. I decided to fix it by cutting out all the damaged hose and installing a pair of couplers. That way I could open the coupling and have a hose to use there on the upper roadway when I wanted.

After fixing the hose, I went back into the woods and irrigated Andrew. When I got back, there was time to place a few more concrete blocks on the pad.

On Thursday morning, I placed a few more blocks on the pad before Robert showed up. I went down and helped him prepare to move the skidder out. There was a lot of 1/2" and 5/8" cable lying around and Robert had decided how much of it he wanted to use and how much to scrap. He used his cable cutter to cut the lengths he wanted, and I helped him coil up and separate the cables for use and for disposal.

After adding transmission fluid, he started the skidder and drove it to where we could hook onto the coil of cable he wanted and two big tire chains for the skidder . He hooked a choker around the coil and the chains and using the skidder 's winch, pulled them up so they were off the ground and hanging from the back of the skidder .

Then I followed him in my truck as he drove the skidder to Two Rivers gravel pit where it will be stored. After parking it there, Robert got into my truck and we got back to Camp Serendipity just as Robert had to leave and I had my lunch and a nap.

When I got up, I irrigated Andrew and then went back to work placing blocks on the pad. In the process, I discovered that I had made an error in my arithmetic. I had over-estimated the number of blocks I had by double. There weren't enough to make three layers high after all. I wouldn't have as many pigeonholes as I thought, and I didn't have a continuous table-top surface. But at least, I had exposed all of the dirt floor which was the major objective.

On Friday morning, I irrigated Andrew and then spent the rest of the morning vacuuming the cabin. I left for home at 1:00 happy about the progress for the week and looking forward to clearer air. Unfortunately, the smoke got thicker as I got to Skykomish and worse yet in Seattle. I delivered the rock to Joe and he asked me to bring him two more next week. He really likes those rocks.

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