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Archive for the ‘Diary’ Category

Bathhouse 19

Last week was mostly a lot of prep work and what one might call “invisible improvements”. On Wednesday I bought the steel we’re going to build the roof structure from, then over the next few days we were occupied with getting ready to switch over to the new, improved and expanded, main power system.  Under Grace’s direction I ran the main cables to the shop and Jae’s cottage, put in the junction boxes under Jae’s floor, and wired up the outlets for both cottages; I also helped Chekhov move into his cottage, braced a few sections of the deck that were flexing more than I liked, and finished up several other small tasks, none of which would really show up in a picture.  But when our hired man finished the task of applying roof sealant on the shop and garage buildings, I let Jae borrow him to start rebuilding her yurt in its new location north of the house.  For comparison with other pictures, that’s Chekhov’s cottage in the foreground and the outside wall of the original house at left; the area where all the wood is lying is going to be the new bathroom, and there will be an exit door with a ramp just a little to the right of where you can see that extension cord.  We’ve had a lot of rain this week, so we mostly did more indoor prep work.  But if the weather forecast is correct, tomorrow is going to be dry enough to do the big switchover, and we’ll at last be able to get those annoying overhead conduits (they’re visible in several of the pictures) out of our way before we move on to building the roof.

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Diary #534

Steel has grown steadily more (disproportionate to inflation) expensive in the 18 years I’ve been buying it, but fortunately Grace is good at finding deals.  So we got a reasonable price on the 1100 kilograms of steel we need to build the bathhouse roof structure, provided I was willing to drive a couple of hours and pay cash.  But thanks to my lovely visit with Dr. Quest last week, I had the latter; and thanks to many, many years of long-distance driving, I’m not bothered by the former.  It did occur to me that I’ve never pulled a heavily-laden trailer that far before, nor ever successfully backed a trailer into anyplace, but one does what one must, and our dog Trip was with me for moral support.  I rather enjoyed the reaction I got upon exiting the truck at the steelyard looking like I look, and I enjoyed even more the look on the guys’ faces when they realized I actually knew something about steel.  The return journey was relatively uneventful, though, and my cargo is safely stacked in the garage awaiting fabrication into trusses. And I didn’t even break a nail moving it.

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Bathhouse 18

While I was away last week, our hired man was busy doing the shingles on the second cottage, with Chekhov assisting; it was rather nice to come home to that being nearly complete because I really had no desire to do that job again.  Not only is it just too damned hot, it also requires positions which, after a few hours, leave me stiff and tense.  But now that’s done, and Chekhov will soon be staining the second cottage (you can see the difference in this picture).  On Wednesday I went to pick up the steel tubing for the roof structure, and Grace has been working on a deal for the purlins and steel roofing panels (which aren’t available wholesale locally); once we’ve got all that we’ll be starting on the main roof, and not a week too soon; the long-range weather reports are starting to show higher chances of rain.  I’m not sure I’ll have anything visual to show you on that next week, but if I don’t I’ll figure something out!

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Diary #533

Time spent with Dr. Quest is always lovely, but unfortunately time spent on airplanes is not.  So after a wonderful weekend I had to get up at 5 AM Sunday to leave for the airport at 6, then make a connecting flight via Philadelphia for a long flight back to Seattle.  However, I was on the ground in Seattle by 1:30 PM, came home to eat a late breakfast, and did little other than write this column and do a little bookkeeping before getting blotto on a THC drink.  Then yesterday I returned to Sunset with the money for the steel for the roof structure of my bathhouse, courtesy of the good Doctor!  He was very pleased to know that every time Iook up in that room, I will think of him.  As regular readers know, under my adamantine exterior I’m actually extremely sentimental, so there’s something  very beautiful to me about being able to look at a specific gift, whether a picture or a sculpture or a tool or a piece of furniture or an actual structure in my home, and smile fondly at the reminder of the generous person who gave it to me.

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Bathhouse 16

I returned to Sunset on Wednesday of last week, and until Monday did a host of small jobs on the project which were yet unfinished.  I spent most of the day Saturday skirting around the cottages; since the ground falls away toward the east fairly quickly, I had to allow for that while simultaneously using something strong enough to keep Orville and the other animals out.   Fortunately, Jae remembered that alongside the shop were the panels of a huge garage door which was apparently once installed on the barn (the previous owners came of age in the Great Depression and never threw away anything as far as we could tell); they were strong, light, weatherproof, pig-proof, and (best of all) free.  So I used them as the base layer all around, and topped them with leftover floor and roof boards from the cottage kits.  When Chekhov stains the cottage, he’ll also spray the boards; later, Jae will paint the white panels to match the trim.  We had meant to have our workmen come back to shingle the roof last week, but that got pushed to this week; on Sunday (with Chekhov’s help) I finished the remaining roof boards which are still missing in this picture, then did the roof underlayment so the shingles could be installed.  Grace also showed me her sketches for the main roof design, and we priced the steel for the supporting structure; we should be able to start on that early next week.  And if things keep going as they should, we’ll have a roof up before the rainy season starts again in about four weeks!

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Taking Shape

As regular readers know, I’m planning to semi-retire at the end of this year; I stopped creating traditional ads over a year ago, and as of January 1st I will no longer take new clients unless they come recommended by someone I know personally.  The pandemic and civil unrest of this year have given me a glimpse of what that’s going to look like:  for the past six months I’ve been living at Sunset, returning to Seattle a couple of times a month for a few days at a time.  For example, I just came back to Seattle on Tuesday for an appointment, then tonight I’ll be flying out to see one of my favorite clients for a weekend; on Monday I’ll be heading back to Sunset for a couple of weeks.  And though this year I’ve been incredibly busy with the remodel, the big things should mostly be done about the same time I semi-retire, and the details by next summer.  And then I’ll just be able to settle into a comfortable routine of writing, publishing books, going back to town or traveling elsewhere to work or make public appearances, cooking, relaxing, puttering around the farm, visiting with friends, and maybe even getting a long-delayed D&D game running.  After half a century of sturm und drang, I have finally (mostly) learned to relax, and even my inner nun is beginning to grudgingly admit that I’ve earned it.

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Diary #532

It’s been years since I made jam; I believe the last time was in 2013, because the year after that I was on tour all summer, then in 2015 I moved to Seattle.  But we had a bumper crop of plums and blackberries, and the apples are almost ripe as well; Jae picked a big basket of plums last week, and even after making two huge plum cobblers I had plenty left.  So on Thursday I made plum jam, then on Friday blackberry, and both came out perfectly!  I have to admit I was a bit daunted; I like making jam, but it’s a lot of work, and, as I said, it has been a while.  But it was a lot easier this time than it was in Oklahoma, for several reasons.  First, Jae picked and pitted the plums for me, and she and a visiting friend picked the blackberries.  Second, I have an electronic cooking thermometer now, which makes monitoring the jam mixture’s temperature much less of a hassle.  And speaking of heat, the Washington coast in September is dramatically cooler than southeast Oklahoma in June, so I wasn’t stuck in a sweltering kitchen while working.  Today I’m going back to Seattle and I’m going to visit the gent I call Dr. Quest this weekend.  But on Monday I’ll be back at Sunset, and soon I’ll be using our apples to make apple cider, apple jelly, apple butter, mince meat, and other lovely treats.

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Bathhouse 15

As I explained last week, we were able to hire a friend of of my usual hired man for a few days thanks to a generous donation from one of my gentlemen.  Having two experienced construction workers in addition to Chekhov and me made the job go much more quickly and smoothly than last time, and we were able to do in three days what I expected to take four.  This picture was taken last Friday, and as you can see the only major thing left to do at that time was the roof shingles.  We’ve done that since then, and though I had to go to Seattle for a few days earlier this week, I’m back now and working on the skirting.  Grace has figured out what we need to start the roof, so as soon as I figure out how I’m going to pay for it, that will be underway!

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Diary #531

I spent the better part of my Saturday and Sunday under Chekhov’s cottage, connecting the cables that will supply electricity to the outlets.   As you can see, it’s still pretty tight down there, but at least I can sit up without hitting my head very often; a few weeks ago someone asked why the deck was so high off the ground, and one of the reasons I gave him was, “I’ve never been in a crawlspace and said, ‘There’s too much room in here’.”  So, voila.  When I took this picture, I was in the middle of chasing down a short; it turned out that while cutting the conduit, I managed to cut into the insulation of one of the three cables in three separate places (I’m competent to do basic wiring, but at first I wasn’t really using the best tool for that particular job).  But eventually I got it all fixed, and now that I’ve done all the crawling around below the floor, Grace can wire the outlets themselves.  I’m in Seattle today, but I’ll be back at Sunset tomorrow, and in the next few days I’ll do the same for the second cottage.  And you can bet I’m going to be much more careful with sharp objects this time.

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Bathhouse 14

Heavy rain last Thursday and Friday slowed us down, but we were still able to get the foundation for the cottage finished by dinnertime Saturday, at which point I took this picture.  We had already done all of the joists on Thursday before the rain started in earnest, then on Saturday I got all the green foundation boards in place.  It was mostly a one-person job, so while I worked Chekhov started staging all the parts for the second cottage nearby (just out of the frame to the left).  Meanwhile, Grace was taking measurements and making calculations for the roof, which we plan to start in the next couple of weeks.  On Sunday we got started on the lower part of the cottage walls, and this time I decided to do the porch as part of the first day of work so we’d have a place to stand instead of having to put down boards and plywood to stand upon.  Then all this week we worked on the cottage with the help of my usual hired man and a friend of his; the wages for the second helper were provided by a generous donation from one of my gentlemen.  I really want to get the roof in place before the rainy season really gets going in the autumn, so the gift of funds for the second helper were very much appreciated; next week you’ll see the results!

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