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Friday, April 22, 2005
Odds and Ends

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Cameron reinforces a temporary staircase that Matt had built.
Joss uses an impact wrench (and ear plugs) to tighten down the corner posts.

The past several days have been at the same time more relaxing and more exhausting for us.  With all of our guests gone and only the four of us remaining, we have felt less compelled to start our work days bright and early and work continually until dusk.  On the other hand, there is still a lot of work to do and we're the only ones here to do it.

On Tuesday, we took a rare trip off of the mountain to meet with both PG&E and a solar company, Renewable Technologies.  We still have a decision to make regarding how we will ultimately supply electricity to the house.  Going onto California's utility grid?  Self-contained solar power?  Or both?  We gathered a lot of information but many questions remain, and we are still far from making a decision.  On the plus side, being in town gave us an excuse to eat out, so we had lunch at a local Mexican restaurant.

Meanwhile, many tasks remained to finish the skeleton of the house.  We had deliberately postponed them until we were all done with the crane work.  Now it was time to complete them.

On Wednesday, Russell literally spent the entire day hammering.  Each of the triple purlin hangers had to have the rest of the nails put in.  In addition, the second-story floor panels had to be fully spiked (except for the center triangular pieces, which remain tacked in until we can replace the center column bolts).  Russell actually wore out his hammer; near the end of the day it snapped and broke in half.

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Russell, with a casualty of the construction work

Gail spent the day catching up on yard work.  She used a whip mower to get rid of some of the tall grass, and went around spraying the poison oak.  In addition, she started ripping out ruined insulation and bleaching the undersides of the second-story floor panels.

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Gail: it's difficult to mow the lawn when your lawn is 50 acres

On Thursday, Gail and Russell worked together, using an impact wrench to tighten every single reachable nut on the skeleton.  Russell had the thankless job of being on top of the ladder, while Gail had the thankless job of keeping Russell from falling to his death.

During this time, Cameron and Joss alternately played, did homework, and helped out.  On Thursday, Cameron's school friend Paul came up to join us for a couple of days, and the three young men continued work on a movie they have been making for the last several days.

Our last tasks involved a change of plans.  Originally, our house building party had been scheduled to run over two weekends, including the week in between.  Despite our good fortune with incredibly good weather during the first weekend, we began to hear rumblings of a storm coming by the second weekend.  (Russell's sister Joanne began to call us several times a day with weather updates.)

Ultimately, we decided to cancel the second weekend of work and depart Friday, ahead of the storm.  We had already gotten an incredible amount of work done, we were tired, we were dirty, and we needed a few days for recuperating before returning to work and school.

As a result, we had to re-cover all of the remaining house pieces with black plastic, including the new interior wall wood that had been delivered by the local Home Depot.  This tedious work actually took a day and a half.

We were disappointed to have to call all of our second-weekend workers and cancel their help, but we were very glad that we did.  We left the mountain shortly after noon on Friday; and by the time we returned to the Bay Area in the late afternoon, it was already starting to rain.

But the biggest surprise awaited us when we arrived back at home and opened the front door. The entire house smelled.  Apparently, an old water heater leak had caused some mold growth underneath the house.  The smell had not been obvious until the house had been closed up for a week.

We will need to remove (and possibly replace) the water heater, rip out the floor and wall, bleach everything, and hope that we have solved the problem.  So much for a weekend of rest and recuperation.

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A nice consolation: on our last morning, a herd of five mule deer wandered up the hill near the boys' tent


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