Thursday, December 9, 2010

January 2008

Through the course of this project I have been tutored by fate. I try my best to listen and remember advice given by others but for the most part I am on my own out here with little real experience. My situation is also somewhat unique in that I am doing it alone with a very limited budget. The circumstances require a lot of reading, forethought and visualization. I do however have lapses in judgement or wisdom and the universe deems it necessary that I learn the hard way.
When I arrived at the land in January of 2008 there had been considerable snowfall. It was about three feet deep which is a lot more than I am used to seeing. I've not lived anywhere that the climate was so unmistakably "northern". There was no way I was going to make it up to the house without plowing out the driveway, but I wanted to get the truck off the road so I got a running start and ran the pickup into the snow bank at the base of my driveway. I made it maybe 30 or 40 feet before I could go no further. I then got out and trudged the rest of the way in to get the tractor. This was my first experience plowing snow with a front-end loader. I thought I would quickly push all the snow out of the way and my driveway would be clear. I found however that it was much more like moving sand. So much snow had accumulated that I couldn't simply push it out of the way. It had to be displaced, which meant a much more tedious process of putting the snow into piles. After clearing a small parking area it became apparent that to clear the drive completely would be a very time consuming project and I only had three days to work with so I did the bare minimum. I dug a trench along the course of the driveway exactly as wide as the pickup which is only about six feet. Also a unexpected thing had happened during my absence. Apparently there had been a warming trend when the some of the snow melted away. Then the temperature had dropped again creating a sheet of ice. Then it snowed again and very much so. This left a deep layer of snow over a slippery sheet of ice. I noticed it while plowing and when I drove the pickup the rest of the way up to the house. Again I noticed it while moving in that evening. Every time I went outside to take a piss I would skid across the driveway.

The next morning was bright and sunny. After breakfast and setting up for work I went to Buxton's, a nearby building supply to get more OSB sheathing and 2X6s. I had a full load as I made my way up the drive. The steepest part was at the end up near the house and I gunned the engine to make it up but the way was so narrow and slippery that the passenger side wheels left the trench and got bound up in the snow bank about halfway up the hill. I cursed impatiently and decided to unload it right there which in hindsight probably wasn't a great idea. The extra weight would have given me more traction; but I unloaded everything, slipping and falling on the ice several times. I figured I would simply back out in reverse, down the driveway until all four wheels were on plowed ground. Not as easy as I thought. I shifted into reverse and gave it a little gas but it was as stuck going backward down the hill as it was going up. So I tried digging it out by hand becoming acutely aware of the precious time I was wasting. It was already late morning by the time the wheels were free of snow. Still the truck would not budge. I wedged wooden boards under the tires and spit them across the driveway. After several such combinations of digging and spinning the tires I was still stuck. Little by little the truck slid down the hill and into a rut. I tried pulling it out with a chain attached to the tractor which was futile as the tractor spun on the ice as well. I tried dragging it out by attaching the chain to a come-along attached to a tree. No luck. It was a beautiful mid afternoon and I was pretty well heated. The trees rang with cussing and cursing. I got on the tractor and angrily lifted the rear end of the truck out of the rut with the loader, tweaking the bumper in the process. I tried again to move the truck but now the front end was stuck. I pulled the tractor around to the front of the truck and crushed the front valence lifting the front end out of the rut. I didn't give a shit. I got into the truck started it up let the clutch go and slid back into the rut. I jumped out of the truck and did an angry, fitful dance with lots of screaming. Then I slipped and fell on the ice. I lay on my back and noticed the sun dipping low in the sky. "Is this for fucking real?" I wondered. After a moment I regained my wits and decided to employ a combination of maneuvers . First I lifted the back end of the truck with the tractor and set long boards under each tire. I then dug out a small field of snow behind the truck down to where the driveway leveled off and made a track of boards down to it. I got into the truck and carefully backed it down the hill along the boards. At that point it was very tempting to just let loose and try again to ascend the drive but I checked myself. My last tantrum had left me a little more level headed than before. I got the battery from the camper and put it in the old 3/4 ton Chevy yard truck (that had originally held the camper) and brought her to life. I shifted into 4 wheel Low and brought the nose up close to my Toyota and chained them together. I lifted the hood of the Chevy and turned up the idle at the carburetor until the engine emitted a low roar and a steady stream of blue smoke out the tail pipe. I dropped the Chevy's column shifter into reverse and jumped out. The big driver-less truck looked possessed as it bucked and clawed against the chain. I climbed into the Toyota and started it up. I shifted into 4 low, let out the clutch and followed the Chevy up the driveway. When we reached the top of the hill we crossed the small parking area and the Chevy's tail plunged into a snow bank as I braked. Free at last!
I looked to the west and watched the sun set, marking an end to the first day of my trip. Amazing! What an incredible waste of time!
The next morning I widened and cleared the driveway to prevent anymore ridiculousness like the day before. Finally I turned my attention to the house. My next step was to make the second floor walls more rigid by adding sheathing. The second floor was a little trickier than the first. The big 4'x8' sheets are heavy and awkward to lift by one's self. I found the easiest way to accomplish this was set my latter just below the upper lip of the first level of sheathing and slide the next sheet up the latter ahead of me. I could then set it in place above the first, holding it in place with my body while I tacked it to the frame. Some spots were not as strait forward and required using nails as "holders" or simply making smaller more manageable sheets. At the end of day three I had covered the walls on all four sides. The thing was beginning to look like a house!
Unfortunately that was as far as I was going to get on this visit.

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