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!"