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May 16, 2010
Stairs: finished risers

The wildflowers are in bloom on the mountain

We have talked before about the physical toll we have taken in trying to build our own home in the mountains over the past four years. Gail has experienced damage to her neck, shoulders, arms and hands. The physical work has caught up with Russell as well. Mainly as a result of lifting and carrying so much drywall over the past month, he has felt increasing pain in his left shoulder.

After seeing his doctor, an orthopedist and a physical therapist, Russell has discovered that he has a combination of inflammation and a condition known as “frozen shoulder.” Unfortunately, the former calls for rest, while the latter calls for exercise. As a result, Russell has been given a prescription for Motrin, a regimen of daily stretching exercises, and a directive not to lift anything heavy for the foreseeable future.

A year ago Russell was walking 160 miles for his 50th birthday. This year, he can’t lift his arm higher than his waist.

Despite this setback, Russell had made plans to visit the mountain with his friend Steve for the weekend of May 15-16. The date had been questionable due to work commitments, but Russell decided at the last minute (Friday morning) that it would be all right to go. We are running out of burn days and chainsaw days; and we want to take advantage of every opportunity.

Russell arrived on Friday evening to find Steve – as usual – already managing a burn pile on the “Lost” trail. In deference to his shoulder, the great weather (almost 80° F this weekend!) and the clock ticking on burn days, Russell volunteered to work outside with Steve for the entire weekend.

For two days, Russell tended burn piles while Steve hauled brush up and down hills with his truck and trailer. They burned on the “Lost” trail, the southeast knoll near the storage shed, and the southern trail (which we are trying to rescue from being overgrown). Steve spent a lot of time spraying the pervasive and newly-leafed poison oak. (“Revenge,” he says, for him getting poison oak in his eye from the last trip.)

Steve sprays poison oak on the southwest knoll. This photo gives an idea of what our terrain looks like before Steve does all of his massive work clearing it!

Russell tried to take it easy, but actually ended up overdoing it and re-damaging his shoulder by throwing one too many branches onto a burn pile.

Nevertheless, Russell also took some time on Sunday morning to install the last two finished risers on the stairwell. That phase is now done. The next task will be to install finished treads. This will be a much more complicated project – first he will have to manufacture the finished treads.

It was a gorgeous weekend, reaching 78° F inside and 76° F outside. Everything is still green, and the wildflowers were in bloom all over the place.

Steve was able to catch up on all episodes-to-date of the final season of “Lost,” which will end once and for all next week. Russell and Steve had their usual Sunday departure lunch at the local Chinese smorgasbord restaurant.

At the end of the meal, Russell’s fortune cookie fortune read, “Visit a park. Enjoy what nature has to offer.” As Russell left to go home, Steve asked if he could drive back to the property and take a nap under a tree for the rest of the afternoon. Russell was happy to let him indulge.

The current state of the stairs: finished risers and skirtboards. Next step: finished treads!


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