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April 26, 2006
1,810 nails

Steve pounds nails into the deck joist hangers

On Monday, April 24, Russell was greeted at mid-morning by the familiar sound of Steve’s motorcycle climbing the hill. After three days with Gail and one day alone, Russell would work with Steve for the next two days.

Russell had spent the last day preparing. He had almost completed all ten of the end-section angled joists (coming up a dozen nails short). He had measured all of the lengths for the remaining joists. And he had set up sleeping accommodations for the two men. (Before she departed, Gail had set up a kitchen and menu for the next several days.)

Steve also came prepared. He arrived with two more five-pound boxes of 10d galvanized nails, two large rodent traps, and rat poison.

The two men settled in and began work immediately. Last year, we had installed joists in one of the five deck sections. In addition, over the past several days Gail and Russell had installed all of the end-section angled joists. This left four remaining deck sections, each with eleven joists.

Russell estimated that each deck section would require half a day’s work. His milestone was to complete the first section on Monday afternoon, the second section on Tuesday morning, the third section on Tuesday afternoon, and the final section on Wednesday morning before Steve departed.

Given our fear of doing something wrong, we decided to cut and install each joist one at a time (as opposed to cutting 44 joists all at once, then discovering that we had measured something wrong). Although this meant more time spent going up and down ladders and starting the generator, we felt safer.

As usual, Russell and Steve worked well together, developing a process that worked like clockwork. By Monday afternoon, we had not only completed the first section, but we had gotten three joists ahead on the second section.

Filling a deck section with joists

Steve was officially the “guest,” so Russell took kitchen cooking and clean-up duties. This enabled Steve to earn a small reward of zooming his motorcycle around on the various trails throughout the property during breaks.

Monday evening’s agenda consisted of watching episodes of “Lost” on DVD (Russell has gotten Steve addicted) and setting the rat traps.

Tuesday morning greeted us with immense fog but no rain – perfect working conditions. The rat traps had not been productive, but the work was. The second deck section was completed by 11:30 am, in time for lunch. The third section was completed in record time by 2:30. (Russell had estimated four hours per section – the third section took an hour and a half.) We pushed on ahead, and by 5:30 pm the fourth and final section was completed – a full half-day ahead of schedule.

During work breaks, we removed all of the tarps from the first-story lumber piles. In addition to discovering two more rodent nests, Steve succeeded in actually spotting our quarry – an eight-inch-long brown rat – before he scurried away into a lumber pile.

(Back home, Gail was horrified to hear that she had spent the last several nights sleeping with a rat roaming around near her head.)

The rat was not biting at any of our trap bait (oatmeal granola bars covered with peanut butter), so we left the front “door” open for most of the day in the hopes that he would just leave on his own.

After more “Lost” on Tuesday evening, Steve spent the night sleeping with a big stick near at hand. We each kept an ear open throughout the night, but did not hear any of the familiar scurrying sounds. With luck, we were finally alone.

Wednesday turned out to be not only a free day, but a gorgeous one as well, weather-wise. Our last job tasks were to clean up the work site, put away all of the tools, re-cover everything in plastic, and pack up.

(We also dismantled the rat traps, but left the rat poison out. Unlike a trap, poison would give the rat an opportunity to exit the house in search of water before he expired. We didn’t want to come back next time to find a rotting rat carcass in the house.)

Then, on this gorgeously sunny 75º day (our first in a week), we set out on a two-hour dirt bike ride. For the first time, we journeyed beyond our property to the trails and pastures beyond. Our ride was interrupted by the discovery of a fallen tree a few miles down the road, but we still had enough trails to explore and enjoy. Russell even got stuck in the mud once.

The end of a nice motorbike ride: Steve encounters a fallen tree

As usual, we finished our stay with the traditional trip into town for an all-you-can-eat buffet of Chinese food. As we sat stuffing our faces, Russell computed that, in total, the five deck sections had required 1,810 nails. In the last week, Gail, Russell, and Steve had personally pounded in 1,502 of them. Not bad for a bunch of middle-aged folks.

The west side of the house: joists completely installed across the three-section deck


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