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!

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