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!