Friday, December 9, 2011

Nov. 2011

In November we had a full house. Sarah, Oscar and myself arrived first and shortly after my parents arrived from Oregon for their annual visit. My first priority was to finish the bedroom space so that Sarah and Oscar could have a place to hang out in relative comfort, isolated from the dust and general mayhem of the construction zone of the house. In the meantime, we setup our bed in the living room.
There was not much left to do to the bedroom. The sheetrock was already hung and needed to be mudded, some trim needed finishing and the room needed to be painted. Even with my Dad's help this paltry bit of work took us all week. I don't quite know where the time went. I know that having Oscar and Sarah to care for delayed getting started each morning by several hours and cut it short by several hours in the evenings.
I like having my family around but found myself feeling very dejected over the glacial pace of my work. I want the place to be ready to move into by the Fall of 2012 but with so many distractions I don't see how the place will be ready in time.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thoughts on future construction logistics

A very small amount of free time over the last six months has yielded no new progress on the House Sculpture. But that was to be expected, as the birth of my baby boy, Oscar, has shifted my focus away from the project. Soon however I hope to combine the great loves of my life and work on the house as my new little family lives within. There will likely be some challenges to overcome. For now my initial goal is to simply get my wife Sarah, Baby Oscar and three cats up to the great North woods of Maine. After some thought my best option in getting there, not only with the family but with tools and supplies, was to put a cap on the bed of my Dodge pickup so that the cats could ride in the back along with tools and household items from our last apartment in Wellfleet. We recently moved into a house in North Truro that we share with the owner, a friendly woman named Mary. She happened to have a truck canopy in her backyard slowing becoming enveloped in weeds and was happy to get rid of it. As luck would have it, the cap fit the bed of my truck and I wasted no time installing the relic and filling the bed with the next load of junk bound for Maine. I left some room for the cat carriers and some of Oscar's stuff including a little crib called a co-sleeper.
My last two trips to Monroe where very short and only meant for checking on the property and doing whatever maintenance needed doing. This will be the first trip since May when I will make further progress on the house. How much progress is a question that lurks in my mind. There is a lot to do! I am very quick and focused in the way that I work alone. Having a little clan to care for will likely slow me down a bit... this is a big step for me so I have to look at it all in the larger context of what this project means to me and how I wish it to develop as it integrates a family to fulfill its function. Working by myself is great; quick and efficient, but only for a short time. Without my wife and little boy around the work loses meaning. In past years I could only stay engrossed in my work for so long, usually a week, before I would become heavily laden with loneliness and thoughts of oblivion. Up till now I was preparing a shelter for my family which really did not quite exist until recently. Now a great milestone of my adult life has been crossed and an inevitable new perspective has presented itself. I have a clan and a great instinct to care for and protect it! Even though the house is not finished it can support us all in relative comfort. Having them there should help me stay focused and avoid downward spirals of loneliness. I know that I would miss my little Oscar terribly! I believe they will also be helpful in identifying points of discomfort and other functional aspects. This first trip should be interesting. There will be lots of family there. Our plan is to arrive early in November (6 or 7). My parents are flying in from Oregon and will meet up with us on the 8th and stay nearby in a motel for about 5 days. They are looking forward to meeting Oscar and will be a big help taking care of everybody as we get some work done!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

April 2011, A Roof for the Turret

I am having restless nights of repetitious dreams. I've been dreaming of windows in the sky. From within the eternal timeless perspective of the dream, I systematically cut and place sections of wooden trim around paned windows. I do this continually over and over, fitting little sections into place but never fixing them permanently, with my only purpose being to see that it might fit, then on to the next, fitting them this way and that, then doing it all over again and again. The process is very tedious, but from the windows I can see blue sky beyond the treetops.
In a way I am recalling some of the work I did on the house during my last visit. I did happen to install the windows that line the uppermost portion of the turret section. But there is still trim and hardware work to be done so in a way I maybe planning my next visit; or the one after that.
My stay at the house during the first month of April yielded some satisfying results...

Upon my arrival I pulled into my driveway and noticed that my mailbox had again met with some form of violence that had knocked it into the ditch along with the 55 gallon drum to which I had affixed it during my previous stay. It was a temporary set up until the ground was thawed enough to sink a new post. I don't know if there was any evil intention directed at my mailbox, but I couldn't help but feel a little hurt. I removed the rope that customarily draws a property line across the driveway when I am away and drove up to the house. Much of the snow had melted away but it still looked new as a fresh white layer had fallen recently. I got my tractor fired up and plowed out the 6 inches of snow covering my driveway. It was totally unnecessary and I succeeded only in making a mess out of the nice clean snow with muddy tractor treads. When I reached the base of the driveway I hauled the mailbox and its oil drum out of the ditch and placed it in the tractor's loader bucket. I returned to the house and began the usual chores of arrival.

I spent some time considering the process in which I would sheath and attach the metal to the roof. The north side was a gentle pitch and would be easy to deal with. It was the steep south side that sent a shudder up my spine. Looking at it from the ground, I imagined a fall from such a height, my broken body bleeding in the driveway. I extended my ladder to it's full 30ft. span and climbed to the top. Stretching my arms up to reach the eves made it seem higher still and scared me enough to climb down and consider other options. I think that normally when work must be done this high in the sky a scaffold is erected. I could build one but it was such a small section of roof. I didn't want to spend all of my time building a scaffold if I didn't have to. I just needed a roof over this thing to keep the rain out. I figured I could put the sheathing down from the inside as long each panel that I laid down was small enough that I could reach over and nail down its far corners. If that didn't work I would just have to build the scaffold or some sort of platform.
As it turns out, nailing down the sheathing by reaching through the open rafters worked well. I kept the panels small and as I went along I also stapled down the felt paper that would act as a vapor barrier and attached straps of wood every two feet that would serve as a solid base into which to screw down the metal. From the peak of the roof I could reach about halfway down the span to anchor it. How I was going to reach the lower portions and the eves, I still did not know. So as always I did what I could do in the present moment. I cut three sections of metal to length and hauled them up to the roof. I lined them up and screwed them down along the peak. The next course was an easy 2ft. reach and I finished it quickly. Now to the next one, four feet below the peak. To reach that one was a little trickier. I decided to employ the tree at the center of the house for help. I found a long length of thick rope and tied it off to the tree. The other end I wrapped through my belt loops and measured off the length so that the rope would stop short just over the peak of the turret's roof. That way I could lay down head first along the steep side and screw down the next course without sliding off the end. I accomplished that, with little grace, dangling from the rope. That left one last course along the edge of the overhang to screw down, but that would have to wait until I had the metal flashing for the eves, which was on back order. To put in the flashing and the trim I would likely need to build some kind of platform; at some later date. The important thing was that a water tight roof was anchored on that steep south side. Now to put down the north side and finish this thing. After completing the steep (scary) side, the gentler pitch was much easier and went down quickly. By late that afternoon the whole roof was in place and ready to meet some Maine rain.

Now that the roof was finally done I could open up the kitchen to the new entryway. I had been anticipating this transition for months. The next morning I removed the plywood that divided the two sections and removed the original kitchen door. By simply moving the plywood divider to the other end of the mudroom, I had formed a new wall and had only to install the door and the small wall that held it to enclose the entire entryway. First I built a wall where the old door had been, which went quickly. Then on to the new door. I had collected a few discarded doors over the past few months from the dump in Truro, all in good shape. I decided on one with a waist high double paned window. It would let light into the mudroom and sort of matched the rest of the windows on that side of the house. I had a little trouble squaring the door to the rest of the structure as it had shifted a bit over the winter.. or I had built it half a bubble off plumb.. either way, the center of the kitchen was sunken and for the door to fit snug along all of it's frame and be somewhat level, it would have to run not-quite parallel to the ceiling.
Later that day it was all put together. The door swung open and closed very nicely but there was (and remains to this day) a noticeable appearance of crookedness that I am still unsure if I will ever be able to hide with any amount of molding or trim. It bothers me like a faint itch. All of the imperfections and "loose ends" in this structure bother me at times. Due to my lack of experience, the place is riddled with them. I must be careful not to dwell too heavily upon them as per my nature to do so. My rumination can leave me stuck, unable to do any work in the face of this enormous project with all of it's "bugs". My friend Paul Tasha passed along a helpful saying to me regarding these moments of self reproach: It's not a Stradivarius.
Now that the new entry was roughly enclosed, a sense of the finished room had emerged. The feng shui improved immensely. Usable space in the kitchen had also been expanded and will likely allow a stacked washer/dryer unit in the future.

I spent most of the remainder of my trip, which was still a few days, enclosing the rest of the tower to the elements. I put in a door on the second floor that will eventually open into a large bedroom above the future garage. For now it's just sort of a door to nowhere, so I screwed it shut to avoid any missteps. At the top of the turret, which will be a sleeping loft with a view, I installed some old fashioned paned windows that I had found at the Truro dump. I set four windows containing six panes each along the east and west sides. On the north side, which is more narrow, I put in two windows of four panes each, also from the dump. The front, or south side of the turret already had it's line of panes which I had installed on my previous visit. So except for the vents in the eves and around the overhang, the turret was now fully closed to the outside. It was rather windy and cold on that Saturday night so the difference was very insular.

The following day, Sunday, I didn't feel like doing much. I was run down and tired so I took a break from the house to putz around and fix my mailbox. I had a good cedar post that I cut down to size. Then, with some junk I had laying around, I built a funny looking mounting bracket and attached the box. I hauled the assembly down to the base of the driveway in the tractor's front end loader, turned around and dug a hole with the backhoe. I dropped it in and packed gravel around and stood back to admire my handiness: a respectable looking mailbox that to me seemed to fit with the look my neighbor's boxes and yet was uniquely my own. My territory was marked!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

February 2011, Turret taking form

Something ominous is creeping into my thoughts. There is a seed of futility growing in my mind regarding this house sculpture. What am I doing? What is this monstrosity supposed to be? As I move along, the impractical elements of the project weigh heavily on my mind. As February's weather makes the work all the more grueling and dangerous I am feeling lost and stupid.
There is a noisy argument going on inside of me. I can see two distinct sides of my psyche rising amidst a sea of mental hamster wheels. A struggle is emerging between the adult in me and the kid in me.
It took the naivete of the kid in me to take on the project of the house sculpture in the first place as though it would be as simple as building a fort out of couch cushions. This aspect of my personality has gotten me into trouble before. The kid just wants to do something fun. The adult in me says I am in over my head, irresponsibly playing foolish games with what little money I have, while in the meantime real responsibilities mount. The adult says this house must be finished quickly and simply. It must be a normal, proper house so that it may have good resale value.
The kid in me says "hey, I'm going to build a cool lookout tower with lots of ladders!"
The kid seems to come up with a lot of my "big" ideas, but the adult must contend with the implementation of such ideas. In that realm of living between the two, I am usually lost in a spiral of adult concerns of money and practicality.
This latest bout of work in February of about 5 days saw some manifestation of what the finished house will look like; or rather, how this half of the house will look. The other half will come years later...
My current "life situation" allows so little time to work on the house (with much less to come) that I find myself discouraged. I think sometimes about selling the property so that I can pay my taxes and other adult expenses. From an adult perspective this project is ridiculous. I have spent the precious few days at my disposal in February working on a completely frivolous project. Frivolous, because it's a damn silly turret, but at the same time necessary in that it must be finished before I can move on to more practical concerns like a functional kitchen and entryway because they will all share a roof.

I arrived at the base of my driveway on the chilly afternoon of February 16. I parked off the side of Rt.139 as the driveway to my house was filled with three feet of snow. I donned the snowshoes I had been given last Christmas by my father-in-law, Jim Hutto and hiked in to the house, flipping on the electricity at the pole on the way. I found the back door wide open but there was no snow inside or evidence of any other disturbance. Odd. Had I left it open in my haste to leave last time I was here or had the wind somehow blown it open?
After building a fire in the stove, I grabbed the snow shovel from the porch and trudged out to the tractor. The tarp that was covering it had split down the middle and the operator's compartment was full of snow. I dug it out the best I could and removed what was left of the tarp. I turned the ignition key with a prayer and the little three cylinder Diesel rattled to life. Good tractor!
The snow was so deep that it took a series of many short back and forth maneuvers to clear enough space to move in any particular direction. I had trouble finding a place to put all the snow as the piles I made quickly became as high as the tractor's bucket could extend. Little by little I made a road for myself. I got stuck a couple of times on the steep incline behind the house and had to dig the tractor out by hand. By the time darkness was settling in I had finished digging out about one third of the drive to the road. I was already freezing and now the temperature was dipping even further into single digits. I went inside and warmed up next to the fire for a few minutes before going back to work. In time I discovered a pattern of maneuvers that saved time as I steadily dug my way to the plowed road where my truck was waiting. Just after 8pm that evening I was able to drive the truck with its load of salvaged lumber, tools, clean clothes and bedding up to the house.
The next morning I did more work with the tractor, widening the driveway and clearing a parking area for my truck as well as from the side of the house where I planned to continue construction of the tower. I cleared enough so that I could layout all of the lumber I had available to me on the ground and organized it into rows according to thickness and width. I then took a drive into Monroe to pickup my mail at the post office.
One of the things I had noticed out of place since my return was the disappearance of my mailbox. I thought that perhaps it had been buried by the plows. After a bit of digging with the tractor I did find the box, but it had been decapitated from its post. It was crushed and the door was hanging off of it. I bashed out the dents and reattached the door and mounted it to an old 55 gallon oil barrel which I stuck at the end of the driveway. There ya go, mail-lady! Now I could turn my attention back to the house.

Before leaving the Cape I had picked up some miscellaneous scrap lumber from Eric Millett who is remaking the old Good Times Pub in Provincetown. He also gave me an enclosure of small paned windows, exactly what I had been searching for to line the upper, south facing wall of my tower. I spent the remainder of my second day fitting that set of windows into the framework of the tower.
Since deciding to build a tower, I have spent a considerable amount of time wondering what function it could serve. It has become a rather small "fort-like" enclosure and access will be limited to ladders until the second half of the house is built. If I put in a loft bed as the upper level, the space could be used as a kid's room or perhaps a sort of solitary refuge/writing room. The loft would be a beautiful place for a nap or reading or bird watching with views from windows lining all four walls.

The next day I built in the upper level loft platform. With the platform in place, the construction of the roof was made much easier and eventually I had a header beam and rafters in place. The going was slow, however. The days were clear but very cold, rarely getting above single digit temperatures with freezing gusts of wind that required I hold fast to the frame of my tower from fear of being blown off. Also, working solo as I was, I spent a great deal of time and energy just ascending and descending the ladders between cuts. At the end of each day I would tire of climbing up and down the ladders and switch jobs. It was getting dark early so I set up lights to work on the entryway and mudroom to the kitchen. I could usually get an hour or two in on that job each evening before I would become too cold and tired to continue.
On my last day I finished putting up most of the exterior sheathing and installed the large front window, the eye of the tower. At that point, as the sun set, I was able to step back and see my ideas taking form. The kid in me laughed with delight while the adult in me took a swig of beer and said, "what the hell! That'll do!"

Monday, February 28, 2011

January 2011, Notions of Identity Shift

The beginning of 2011 met me with a bombardment of costly obstacles. In mid-January I planned a trip to Maine and was getting ready for it when a final hurdle threw me on my face and required that I delay my trip indefinitely. As I was pulling out a parking space one Friday evening after work, the rusty front suspension of my little Toyota pickup gave way. One of the control arms separated from the chassis and left the truck only three wheels the stand upon. The front end sunk to one side and the wheel splayed itself out sideways. It was grotesque, like a dog trying to stand on a fractured front paw. I managed to get it back into a parking space on the Cabral pier in Provincetown and set a jack under the frame so that it would sit level. It would be an incredible pain in the ass to fix but a bigger problem began to reveal itself as I probed around with a flashlight at the rest of the suspension and steering components. The undercarriage was a mass of rust. More of the same kind of problem would plague me from here on out if I chose to hold onto the little truck. It was not safe to drive anymore. I had been lucky that it broke when and where it did. Had it happened two days later while flying down the freeway on my trip to Maine I may have been killed.
Such a shame. I had grown fond of the scrappy little Toyota but I would need a new truck before I could resume my work on the house sculpture.
I have always had strong emotional connections to cars. I felt a sense of tragic loss in relation to my little Toyota pickup. The damage was too extensive for me to fix myself with my meager set of tools and lack of any sort of garage space in which to work. I would also need welding equipment for a job this extensive.
For now, I would just replace the broken control arm where it sat on the pier. I've done this sort of work on other vehicles before and it is usually an easy job in itself, but this time it was extremely difficult. All of the bolts were frozen with rust. During the time between it's breaking down and my beginning to take it apart, there had been a heavy snow and the plows had pushed all the snow from that section of the lot against my truck. I had to dig out an opening just to get started. Working outside in the snow and icy wind of the pier was not so pleasant, but with patience, perseverance and long underwear I finally removed the old control arm (in two pieces) from the chassis. The replacement part was still on it's way from California so I couldn't put it all back together right away. Even once I did, I could not drive it safely.
My only real option here was to trade it in on something newer. Over this option I ruminated with conflict and prejudice over the market of used pickup trucks. I wanted an older truck but in this part of the country that would mean simply replacing one rust bucket with another. I hated the idea of driving around in a late model vehicle and wondered how I would even afford such a thing.
Reality persisted, however and I could only borrow Sarah's Saturn for so long. On one of our mutual days off we took a drive into Hyannis to look at what was available. We soon came across a 2003 Toyota Tundra with low mileage and little rust. It drove like a dream. All in all it was like a brand new vehicle and I could just barely afford to buy it by financing a chunk of it. We looked around at some other dealers but could not find an equivalent. For some reason I was hoping to buy a domestic make but everything in my price range seemed like junk. In the end we went back and bought the Tundra. I could not take it home then as I still needed to fix my little truck (for trade) and was still waiting for a replacement control arm to arrive in the mail. During the period of days before I could take home the Tundra I was filled with regret and self reproach for making such a purchase. Aside from worries of it costing too much and having the gas mileage of a V-8, my greatest internal crisis concerned the hit to my identity. I'm a loner, a rebel who drives old jalopies that no one else has the courage to drive; usually beat up old cars built in the 60's or 70's. That is who I am...or rather, that is who I was... Too many external factors seemed to be conspiring to change me, and yet they are not external. I made this stuff happen. I am not anymore the loner I aspired to be. I am no longer a single guy, I am now married and must think of the "unit" before myself. Now this truck has come along (which is exactly what I need, it even has a wood rack) to continue building the house in Maine, but it is not me... even as I now drive it around I feel like I am driving someone else's vehicle. And I can't help but wonder, am I living someone else's life?

Now it may seem that I have gone off-topic. This account is supposed to be about a nitwit and his attempts to build a house sculpture. Not about some nitwit who bought a new pickup. But as the endeavor of building this house is concerned, with all of the traveling and salvage operations involved, a pickup truck as a tool is of primary importance. It is essential to this project and how I identify with that tool is just as important.
From the beginning of this undertaking my goal has been to build a house; not to have a house. My point is to experience the process as a work of art is experienced. The vastness of essential tools and duration of the project itself allows me a rare opportunity and one that to me is of highest importance in the experience of creating art. I am using this project as a sort of measuring stick against my own identity. Every piece of art that an artist creates should in some small way change him or her. There is an outlet of energy in the creation process. The artist is changed from the time he/she began the work to the time of completion. Usually, that change is practically unnoticeable. In my experience of painting a picture or making a tattoo, the time and resources expended are relatively small. I do not feel like a different person from beginning to end. Also, my usual executions of visual art are small in scale to my own physical being. Until the house sculpture I have never had the experience of being encapsulated in my own creation as I am creating it. The feeling is sublime; an unexpected stroking of my ego but beside the point. This particular piece of art has all the usual characteristics of a piece of art plus one more that many do not. It is of use. Its use is part of it's identity and therefore part of my identity as the creator. To me a house is a nest, a place in which to raise a family. A great deal of the thought involved in building this thing concerns how a small family might use it.
I am now about three years and three months on this project and I estimate the house is about one third of the way finished. I have worked steadily spending an average of about 5 days (70hrs.) each month working on or around the house. I have spent far more time than that thinking about the house. In fact, since the conception of this project I have thought about little else. Each interval between visits is a mental winding-up of thought and intention. The constant visualization of assemblage and function is shifting my brain chemistry. I am watching this thing change me.
It is mentally and physically painful to spend long periods of time away from it as I have not found a suitable outlet on which to unleash my pent up energy where I live on the Cape. When I do finally have my chance to work on the house I pour everything I have into it, working without pause sometimes 12-14 hours a day until I am too exhausted and sore to move. I always start out jubilant and full of energy but finish the last day of each trip lonely and depressed. Upon arriving back at my home on the Cape I am weary but happy to be greeted by my wife and a hot shower. The next day, however I always awake with a feeling of regret, like I could have squeezed in one last day of work and I long to go back. I feel mentally pushed around in all directions by this project of my own creation. It owns me. In the process of building the house to accommadate it's purpose, I am personally changing to fulfill the role of accommodation; or in other words I am becoming what the house needs for it to live up to its purpose.
My identity has shifted from that of a single, self sufficient guy (with no aspirations to be anything else) to that of "Husband"; which is cool. I like being a husband, but from there my personage has recently taken another promotion to that of "expectant father". How cool is that?
This latest news is at present too big for me to fully comprehend. It's good that I have several months to prepare. I just know that more excitement and change is on the way. My identity as I have known it, is shifting such that I am not even so much "me" anymore as a unit of me, her and "it": a family. I am becoming just what the house sculpture needs before it can be complete... for it to live and be part of the family. So what begat what?
I expect that being a supportive father will require much of my resources and is sure to bring many surprises. Among other things I wonder, how will I find the time and money to continue construction? I don't know. But it must continue. It is of absolute importance to bring this around full circle by finishing construction and living in it, thereby bringing the house to full completion; the very dream that hatched this new reality!

Monday, January 10, 2011

April 2008

When I arrived on the property in April 2008 I found a barren place. The snow had recently melted away revealing only sparse vegetation and a lot of mud. The area around the house was littered with building materials and bits of wood scraps that had been buried by the snow falls over the winter. The house in it's surroundings looked bleak, but the warmer weather was a welcome thing especially in light of my next project: installing a metal roof.
Some of the metal came from Buxton's Building Supply nearby, but most came from my neighbor, Peter, who had a surplus of blue metal that he had left over from a previous job. He sold it to me at a good price and even delivered it to me.
I spent the next several days on the roof. Before putting down the metal I attached firing strips to the sheathing and rafters. It was important for a metal roof to have these strips of wood underneath to account for air flow and expansion and contraction. After that it was all about laying down and lining up sheets of metal and screwing them down. During some of that time I had company on the ground; a couple of electricians from Mac Electric.

Since the Fall of '07 I had been going through the motions required to bring electricity to the house. At first it involved making some phone calls and getting permits. There were power lines along rt.139 (also known as Main St. or the Monroe Highway) so there was not a considerable distance to run the line. My first step early in the Fall was to have a pole sunk roughly 125 ft. in from the pole at the road. I contacted an older fellow by the name of Gene Bonnie to set the pole. Gene was well liked and well known to the folks at the power company and the local electricians. Apparently Gene had worked for the Central Maine Power Co. inventing some of the devices used to set poles in areas with difficult access. He was reliable and quick to sink a pole for me. I would have liked to see how he did it but he ended up putting it in when I was between trips.
I contacted a handful of local electricians starting in the Fall of '07 and all had proved to be either very elusive or drunk, perhaps a little of both. The first guy to come by was nice enough but struck me as strange with very spastic mannerisms. I thought I caught a whiff of whiskey on his breath as he bounced out of his van. He actually jumped into my camper when I mentioned my plans to build off of it. He talked endlessly about his family troubles and his dismal living situation (he lived in a trailer next to his mother-in-law). His ideas for how the cable would run to the house and how the meter would be mounted seemed overly complicated and redundant. When I told him I wanted to bury the cable he suggested I employ his friend to dig the trench (at that time I did not yet have a tractor). The guy made me uneasy with his weird suggestions and stories of personal misfortune. When he asked for a consulting fee at the end of his visit I knew he was not to be trusted.
I asked the few folks I knew locally for recommendations for a good electrician. I came up with two names. I called them both over and over again. Eventually one of them returned my calls; I think his name was Eric. He lived nearby and said he would come out to assess my situation the next morning. It was getting close to Winter at this point, maybe it was November. By that time I had purchased a small John Deere tractor and had used it to dig a trench between the pole and the house. He arrived in a white van with his teenage son in tow. He was a morbidly obese man in coveralls and prominent whiskers. He looked like a walrus standing upright. He seemed knowledgeable in his trade but as I found out later, some of his information was erroneous. He was slow to move, he was so fat. He instructed his son to measure the length of the trench. The boy ran the length of the trench, hopping in and out as he made his way to the house with his measuring tape. He came back with a measurement of about 130 ft.. We made tenative plans for them to come back and do the job of running the cable with a meter box. After that I did not hear from him again even after leaving several follow-up messages. A couple of times I ran into him at the local market/gas station in Brooks during the Winter and each time he assured me that he would get to it in the spring, just give him a call. But as Spring rolled around all new messages I left remained unanswered. So I decided to give someone else a try.
At the beginning of my April visit I called on my neighbor Walter who was qualified to write me a fire permit to burn a large brush pile. Walter owned a small dairy farm and had recently had his power upgraded to 200amps. He recommended Mac electric in Belfast. So I gave them a call and talked to Mark the owner. He came by the next day to check out my situation. He was a young guy for a master electrician, maybe about my age and was quick and knowledgeable. I told him of the recommendations made by the first guy and he politely confirmed my suspicions that the guy was an idiot. A couple days later two guys from Mac showed up in the morning in a white van and got to work. One of them immediately scaled the pole while the other began laying out conduit beside the trench for the underground cable. Mark came by shortly to make sure his guys knew what to do and had all they needed.
In the meantime I worked on my roof.
After only a few hours, the guys from Mac Electric had finished the job of running the electric line from the top of the pole to a meter box at the bottom of the pole and from there to the breaker box inside the house. The breaker box was salvage from a demolition on the Cape. They had also installed a power outlet just below the box; a very professional, efficient job. Now all I had to do was call the power company and wait for them to link me to the grid. That part took a little longer. It was at some point during the summer while I was away working that they hooked me up.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

March 2008

March of 2008 was a milestone in the progress of my house. At the end of my last visit I was able to get about three quarters of the roof covered in sheathing which, as a roofs go, made it about as useless as nipples on a man. It was, however, during this visit that it became an enclosed space and began to resemble a house. But first I was due another not-so-pleasant safety lesson on the first evening of my arrival.
There was plenty of snow and ice outside and inside the house. Whatever had happened in my absence had left a thick sheet of ice on the first floor and the landing at the camper's entrance. Everything that had been sitting on the floor including my sleeping couch was embedded in an inch of ice. On the upside, it was clear to see that the floor was still perfectly level.
I started a fire in the stove but knew that it would be a long time before all the ice melted if the roof was not closed up soon. I immediately went to work that evening with by usual impatience even though there was little I could do before morning without electric lighting. I quickly set up my short extension ladder on the ice at the edge of the landing where the camper poked in, climbed up and began fussing with the window frames above it. I don't remember exactly what I was up to, but I do remember the futility of the act passing through my mind as the ladder slipped out from under me. It didn't come down in one great crash which was perhaps lucky. One of the upper legs of the ladder caught the trim of the camper flipping it sideways before throwing me to the icy floor.
I laid crumpled on my back, momentarily dazed. I'm such an idiot. Who sets up a ladder on a sheet of ice?
On my trip to the floor I had taken the tarp down that separated the landing from the lower floor of the house and had somehow gotten tangled in it. One of my legs was caught between the lower rungs of the ladder which left me in a partially upside down position with my legs still up on the landing and the rest of my body wedged between the lower floor and the couple of stairs ascending the landing. I prayed nothing was broken. I assessed the state of my body, first without moving, just to see where it hurt, and then little by little, wiggling all my fingers and toes up to the major joints. Everything seemed intact, though cut, battered and bruised with my right leg and hip being the most beat up. I would be limping around for the rest of the visit.
The next morning I climbed upstairs via a wooden ladder I had anchored to the wall and floor. No more ice skating for me. I began the work of framing the rest of the NE roof and the overhang. Most of the work required that I stand on one of three ladders. I set them all up very carefully with each move, but I still noticed a new phobia of standing high up on them. Due to the combination of fear and pain, I ascended and descended one careful foot at a time as though it were my first time on a ladder. Climbing the long 30ft. extension to work on the overhang and eves left me especially frightened as I drove nails in upside down. My will to finish the roof, however was stronger than my new found fear of flying.

After a couple of days, all the sheathing was covering the roof and the envelope of the house began to hold heat and melt the ice from the floor. The overall atmosphere inside the house changed remarkably. It finally was beginning to feel like a house. It was truly a happy day!
During the remaining few days, I finished off the eves and made exterior frames for the windows out of strips of rough cut hemlock.

At this point I wasn't ready to do much interior work, but the little that I did usually called for cutting lumber which made me very aware of now being indoors. As usual, I made my cuts with the chainsaw. The echo and exhaust of it's two-cycle engine was maddening. To accomplish the enormous task of finishing the interior I would need do the rest by handsaw or bring in electricity.
I kept a hot fire going for the remainder of my visit and left the house dry and ice-free. I would no longer come home to a skating rink in my living room!