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November 15, 2009
Murphy says “Not so fast…”

Gail with “the tree”

“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”
– Murphy’s Law

We are simply not destined to have another “Russell and Steve” weekend in 2009. Russell had actually scheduled two weekends with our friend Steve at our mountain home building site, on November 14 and November 20. Steve has been waiting patiently to see the season 5 finale of “Lost” with Russell.

The first change was that Steve would now be unavailable on the second weekend. The second change was that Gail decided to join Russell and Steve on the first weekend. The third change was that our friend Dirk decided to join Russell, Steve and Gail on the first weekend. Dirk’s last-minute accompaniment was actually very fortuitous – Gail ended up stuffing both our vans full of kitchen cabinets to transport up.

We drove up as usual on Friday afternoon, November 13, caravanning with Dirk. (We are not superstitious people, but “Friday the 13th”…) In a first-ever occurrence, we bumped into Steve at a gas station on the way up, and followed him the rest of the way. It was on the final dirt road up to our house site that we noticed Steve stopped in front of us. There was a very large oak tree lying across the road.

Dirk contemplates the tree. Fortunately, its main trunk fell alongside the road. Unfortunately, a couple of its larger branches fell across the road.

With the approach of winter it was already getting dark. While Steve immediately started attacking the tree with a handheld hatchet he had on his motorcycle, Gail walked up to the house to get the chainsaw. The three men ended up tackling the huge tree with hatchets, axes, rakes and the chainsaw (once we changed the ineffectively dull blade). We finally cleared enough of the tree to get our vehicles up to the house.

Russell and Steve try to tame the fallen tree with axe and hatchet

However, Murphy’s Law would continue to make appearances all weekend.

Steve’s agenda for the weekend was to burn as much of the previously cleared scrub as possible. That was now changed; he would spend much of Saturday continuing to dismantle the fallen tree.

Russell’s agenda for the weekend was to continue building the stairs. That was also now changed, the circular saw had accidentally been left at our house in the Bay Area.

Gail’s agenda for the weekend was to move the kitchen downstairs and begin drywalling the room it had previously occupied – Cameron’s bedroom. Because both of these tasks would involve a lot of heavy lifting, she was actually happy that Russell’s agenda had been upended.

Dirk’s agenda for the weekend was to debug some wiring glitches in the downstairs kitchen before (or while) Gail moved everything into it. His schedule was only partially interrupted by Gail’s many heavy-lifting projects. We actually succeeded in moving the two vanfuls of kitchen cabinetry into the house on Friday night, getting that task out of the way.

The downstairs kitchen wall, before and after cabinets. Gail bought the set of half a dozen cabinets for $300 on Craigslist; the sink alone retails for $1,200.

On Saturday morning, Gail and Dirk drove the now-empty van into town to purchase more drywall. They came back with 19 sheets. Unfortunately, while they were out, Steve succeeded in cutting through the largest of the oak branches… whereupon it proceeded to fall into the middle of the road. Unable to get the van up to the house, the three of them tried to move the heavy branch out of the way, to no avail.

The van blocked – take two

Fortunately, Russell has the strength of 10 men. He succeeded in moving the branch by himself. (Well, he did get some help from an eight-foot-long 2x4 that he used as a lever.)

Russell and Dirk spent a subsequent hour carrying all of the drywall into Cameron’s bedroom to be stored. With some additional sheets that we already had downstairs, they moved a total of 22 sheets of drywall up the stairs. Dirk summed up the project appropriately: “I think I’ve had my fill of drywall for the rest of the year.”

In order to move all of the drywall upstairs, we had to relocate the temporary stairs out of the way of Russell’s new LVL joist. Unfortunately, the temporary stairs now obstruct further construction on the permanent stairs.

Gail was able to start drywalling the outside of Cameron’s wall (overlooking the stairwell hole), thanks to a temporary platform that Russell set up. She did have yet another encounter with Murphy’s Law when a sheet of drywall fell down and landed on her. Fortunately, she had enough reflex to leap across the stairwell hole – otherwise we would be recounting a very different story today.

Gail also succeeded in dropping a crowbar down the stairhole, barely missing Russell’s head as he just happened to be walking underneath at that moment.

Russell constructed a platform across the stairwell hole, which Gail fortunately leaped across when a sheet of drywall fell on her

Steve succeeded in getting a burn pile going. Dirk succeeded in troubleshooting the kitchen circuits, although the kitchen plumbing still needs additional work. Russell spent most of his time helping Gail, when he wasn’t lying down from overworking his heart.

We also had several meetings. Our plumber Curtis came by (with his entire family) to discuss some additional plumbing work for the water heaters. Out neighbor Scott came by to discuss some trenching work for the propane gas line.

Russell and Steve were able to watch the season 5 finale of “Lost” by parking themselves in the back bedroom with a television set. We were also invited to another delicious dinner at our friend Dennis’ house on Saturday night – especially gracious because we kept increasing the guest list on him and his family. Russell taught Dennis’ daughter yet another European board game – “Lost Cities” – and ended up giving her his copy.

Russell moved the dining room table and chairs downstairs. Dirk even relocated the chandelier.

All in all it was a very productive weekend, in spite of Murphy’s Law. While Steve had to depart early Sunday morning, Dirk was still hard at work when Gail and Russell departed on Sunday afternoon. He didn't end up leaving until 8:00 that evening. (Dirk also recommended the title for this blog entry.)

The result of the weekend’s work: Cameron’s wall is almost finished. This really closes off the house!

Next weekend Russell plans to come up by himself. Or maybe Gail will decide to join him at the last minute. Russell plans to work – finally – on the stairs. Or maybe Gail will pre-empt his schedule with yet more heavy lifting.

Russell’s next challenge: his stairwell construction is now blocked by the temporary stairs, as well as by relocated stacks of plywood


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