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April 17, 2009
Many happy returns

Gail installs the first drywall downstairs – on the wall separating the kitchen from the pantry and bathroom

We were not able to visit our mountain home building site for the entire month of March. We have already documents some of the reasons why, including our electrician (and Gail’s step-brother) Jim’s health problems and our son Joss’ continuing migraines.

Sadly, our lives were further put on hold when Gail’s brother-in-law Steve passed away on March 12, a little more than a year after being stricken with brain cancer. Steve and his wife Debbie (Gail’s sister) were members of our original “house raising party” back in April 2005. In addition, Steve, Debbie and their son Eric spent many weekends with us up on the mountain, from tent camping to helping with construction. Russell has known Debbie longer than he has known Gail, so he played an active role in the memorial service.

The second week in April was Joss’ spring break from school, so Gail made a point of scheduling a long overdue trip back up to the mountain. Other than a one-hour stop in the beginning of April, Gail had not been to the mountain house since January. So on Wednesday, April 15 (Income Tax Day), the three of us – Gail, Russell and Joss – drove up for a two-night trip.

Gail’s agenda was to install more drywall (we drove up with an empty van to buy more sheets at the hardware store). Russell’s agenda was to clear more brush, given the unseasonably warm weather. Joss’ agenda was to try out his new soft air pellet gun (a sniper rifle complete with scope).

But our first priority – which we attacked on Wednesday evening after we arrived – was to try to take care of our rodent problem once and for all. When Russell was last here at the beginning of April, he was disappointed to see yet another mouse run across the floor of the master bedroom. (It’s a good thing Gail wasn’t there). We have come to the conclusion that the mice must be getting in through the crawlspace above the downstairs bathroom, which is currently covered with plastic sheet. (We have come to this conclusion because Gail has sealed or sprayfoamed every other possible crack in the house).

So in the fading sunlight of Wednesday afternoon, Russell went up on a ladder (Gail refused). Sure enough, the space was filled with rodent droppings. In addition, Russell shined a flashlight into the space and Gail could see all kinds of light from the outside of the house. Once the area was cleaned out, Gail attacked it with an entire can of spray foam. Needless to say, nothing is going to get through that space now. We went to be on Wednesday feeling a little more safe and secure than usual.

The crawlspace above the downstairs bathroom
Before: There is a small hole in the insulation on the right side, just perfect for rodents
After: Gail has filled the hole with an entire can of sprayfoam!

On Thursday morning, we were pleasantly surprised when our friend Dennis came by for a visit. Due to various organizational changes at the Calaveras Building Department, Dennis is now our building inspector once again. Dennis performed a visual inspection of our progress, signing us off for another six months. In addition, Dennis consulted with Gail on how to make further progress on the electrical wiring.

(We have accepted that Gail’s step-brother Jim will most likely be unable to finish helping with the electrical installation. Our choices are to finish the work without Jim or formally hire an electrician. We haven’t decided which course of action to take yet – Gail estimates that the wiring is about 80 percent completed to date.)

As Joss practices with his new air soft pellet gun, Gail chats with Dennis – once again our building inspector!

On Thursday afternoon, we were further surprised when Debbie and Eric drove up as well. We had extended an informal invitation to Debbie earlier in the week, but we really hadn’t expected her to take us up on it. The trip turned out to be a welcome opportunity for Debbie and Eric to get out of the Bay Area for awhile.

Debbie had not seen the mountain house since before we had started framing, and she was astonished and amazed at what we have accomplished to date. Everyone pitched in to do more work, both inside and outside the house. Eric was able to shoot target practice with his .22 caliber gun and ride a dirt bike around the property. On Thursday night we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset and watched a tearjerker movie.

Eric, Gail and Joss (up on the parapet) install a huge piece of drywall on the upstairs living room wall

It was great to be back up on the mountain. We spent a wonderful couple of days with both friend and family. We are still hopeful that we can get our occupancy permit before the end of summer, but it will require us returning much more often than we’ve been able to do lately.

In the meantime, Gail is off to spend a week in Louisiana to help with post-hurricane rebuilding. And Russell has his 50th birthday coming up in a little more than a month.

Debbie clears scrap lumber on the south side of the house – coincidentally, this is the same spot where her husband Steve used to meditate every morning when he visited the mountain


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