Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Progress Thus Far (Week 3)

I have not had the full cooperation of the weather over the past week. It has been cold, rainy, snowy, and cold. Despite not being an incredibly busy week, it was still a productive week. As it stands, I am have two logs installed, with a third cut, peeled, and ready to be installed.

Monday, I cut my first big tree. I delayed the inevitable by sharpening all of my tools and my chainsaw. After, I finally ran out of menial tasks to do, I had to suck it up and go for it. The truth be told, I was scared. I have cut a lot of trees, but never one quite so big. It was over 60 feet tall and measured approx. 15 inches in diameter at the base. Ending up as a pancake has never been particularly high on my list of things to do, but if I have to risk being crushed, I rather do it somewhere closer to a hospital or at least a road. Before cutting it, I figured out where I wanted it to go and notched the bottom accordingly. Pausing, I took a minute to assess my surroundings, deciding where I would be running if this behemoth decided to fall the wrong way. Heart pounding, I cut the base, really hoping I wasn't about to die. When the tree finally started to move, I was greatly relieved to see it falling away from me. As a matter of fact, it fell right where I intended it.

With the tree on the ground, I cut three 12 foot sections out of the trunk before I began hitting too many limbs and the logs became too knotty to use. The rest of the day was spent debarking these three logs. I have a 3 foot, flat head shovel that I have sharpened for the task. Except where there are large knots or limbs, the shovel peels the bark fairly easily and I can peel an entire twelve foot log in about 30-45 minutes. Once the outer layer of bark is off, I still have an inner layer to deal with. This inner layer (I believe it's called the cambium) is a thin, sappy membrane between the outer bark and the inner wood. It's a milky white color when it's first exposed, but after a few minutes it turns a burnt orange color. To remove this, I have to drag the entire surface of the log with a knife repeatedly, peeling back a little bit at a time. By the time evening fell, I was ready to quit.

Tuesday, it was cold and rainy, and I came to the library to write about the previous week. The rain brought nothing good out in my personality. I felt moody and annoyed all day.

Using a mallet and chisel to clean up
a notch I cut in the middle of my log.
On Wednesday, I installed my first log. It was far too heavy for me to lift, so I set up a two ramps made from smaller tree trunks and scraps of 4x4. I rolled the first log to the base of my ramps, parallel to my footers. Then, I anchored a rope to the opposite footers, looped the rope under the log on the ground at each end, and put the middle of the in the middle of my footers (forming a 'W' shape). By pulling on the middle of the rope, I was easily able to pull the log to the top of my footers. Using a stump to anchor the rope and leaving the log hanging on the ramps, I cut two flat notches in the ends of my log to rest on the footers. I then cut another flat notch in the middle of the log, installed addition footer in the middle to reduce the span the bottom log has to cover. I then pulled the log up and toed it into the footers with a few nails.

On Thursday, I maneuvered my second log--very slowly, by rolling it back and forth--parallel to my first. I repeated this process, but because of a later start and more time spent getting the log into position, I had to leave the log hanging on the ropes so I could install it on Friday.

Visually, it a winter wonderland.
In reality, it's really cold and wet.
When I awoke on Friday, I realize I would not be installing my second log that day. The same snow storm that hit Dallas just before the Super Bowl also hit Waldo, leaving 5 inches of snow on the ground. With the library closed and nothing to do, I went to Wal-Mart and played their demo video games until I got bored. I then went to a laundromat. As my clothes washed, I had the pleasure of laughing as Oprah tried repeatedly to lump herself in with "normal people". If being a billionaire media mogul is normal, I feel very odd indeed.

My tent/igloo on Friday morning.
I had hoped to be able to do more on Saturday, but surrounded by forests, my campsite and worksite didn't receive much sunlight and the balmy high of 42 degrees didn't do much to melt the snow. I did clear the snow off my logs and spent the afternoon with a draw knife, slowly whittling away remain strands of the cambium layer.

Sunday was once again spent in El Dorado, showering, visiting with family, and eating some of the most delicious homemade rolls I've ever had in my life. They were referred to as 'hurtcha rolls', because--as I found out firsthand--if the tray is left at the table, they will hurt ya. I then hung around El Dorado, killing time in the book section of the local Goodwill until the Super Bowl. I watched the game at an Applebee's, saw some very interesting characters, and drove back to Waldo in a light drizzle.

Monday, with all the snow finally off the ground (thanks in part to a rainy night), I finished installing my second log. My third log (the third section up my first tree) was pleasantly light. It was so light, in fact, that I was able to drag it straight instead of rolling it sideways. I was even able to lift it, but not more than a few feet off the ground. Using a rope loop as a handle and all the strength I could muster, I managed to set it running perpendicular across my two installed logs (forming an 'H'). This is going to be the main joist that supports my floor. I then cut one side flat with a chainsaw, flipped it over, and peeled all of the cambium with a draw knife.

When I get back to camp this afternoon, I'm going to notch my two sill logs (the big support ones) and recess this joist so it is flush with the top. Then I'll fell another tree of two, peel the bark off, and begin working on my walls.

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