Shangri La

Shangri La

Friday, September 11, 2009

Nature Hunting at Shangri-La and A Lesson Learned

LSW here. It was a fun-filled Labor Day weekend up in Shangri-La. We couldn't have asked for better weather. In fact, it was so beautiful, it seemed kind of a shame that we couldn't enjoy all the local goings-on. Ah, well. Our sadness was quelled by this awesome find:

Bird skull! The Boy is very into mushrooms right now, so the Vermonster and I took turns taking him on nature hunts. In addition to the bird skeleton, we found turkey tail mushrooms and coral mushrooms and ... a roach (the smoking kind, not the moving kind. Apparently the roofer had a little smoking break).

One of the first things I noticed when The Boy and I arrived was a horrible screaming sound, like a bunch of children were being lured into a witch's candy house. "Is that a baby?" I asked.
The Vermonster said, "It would seem the neighbors have a couple of new kids-- not the human kind." We're guessing they're goats, although I suppose they could be sheep or maybe even peacocks. In any case, they screeched all day, drowning out the rooster's cock-a-doodle-dooing.

Lesson #1 learned on this trip: Just because two doors are in the same rack at Home Depot doesn't mean they're the same size. Yeah, that front door slid in real easy. A little too easy. There was about 4 inches of extra space, so the Vermonster had to re-frame the hole.
I can't say I was much help over the weekend; mostly I painted trim and weather-proofed underneath the sheathing. I just put this photo here so you could check out my cool shades I got for $1 at the National Liquidators Closing Sale.
By the end of the weekend, we managed to put in all the windows and doors, so we now officially have a lockable cabin, which means we can finally start storing stuff up there instead of hauling it with us every time.

Weathertight and Lockable

The LSW and I packed up The Boy this weekend and headed back up to VT, with the goal of getting the place lockable and weather-tight. 9 double-glazed ModernView windows were being delivered on Saturday morning, and I had 2 Home Depot insulated fiberglass doors and one homemade crawlspace door in the truck with me.

I was out of the house by 5:30 AM, and arrived on site by 8:30, after a brief stop at the Saxton’s River Market to get one of their fresh donuts (the SRM donut thing has become a bit of a habit). The place looked great with the roof on it, but the roofer’s attention to detail was a little off; the Tyvek I asked him to complete on the rear gable was forgotten, and he didn’t put spacers under my 1 x 8 gable trim to get it to stand proud of the shingle siding I’m going to put on. Lesson learned: If you have to hire something out, be on site while the work is happening. Still, I’m not complaining – overall I’d recommend him. In the end, the sheathing and shingling work came to about $3,200.

I spent about an hour cleaning while waiting for the windows (and the wife) to arrive. It occurred to me that I had never put in vinyl windows before, and I had no idea how heavy they were. It would really suck to find that they were too heavy for the two of us and so the weekend was wasted. Fortunately, they were lighter than I expected, and I had 4 of them installed before the LSW pulled in with The Boy at about 11.

I knew from the start that I was going to use double-glazed vinyl windows, so it was just a question of brands. Lavalley’s had JenWeld and ModernView, the principle difference being price (the JenWeld were about 20% more expensive) and the warranty (20 years for JenWeld vs. 10 for ModernView). Otherwise they looked identical. In the end, my rapidly diminishing bank account forced my hand on the cheaper option, although I did splurge on internal muntins and the jam extensions. Six 3’ x 4’ and three 3’ x 3’ new construction windows came to about $1,670.

The big surprise of the weekend was discovering that I had purchased 2 different door sizes – 36” wide and 32” wide. Both were supposed to have been 36”. I’m not sure how I missed this when I bought them, but I was committed to making the place lockable that weekend, so I made due. There’s supposed to be a closet on the left wall of the front entrance, so I put the smaller door there, figuring it would give me a little more closet space.

In the ‘best laid plans’ category, I had rechecked my crawlspace door calculations no less than 3 times, and still got it wrong. I had to trim an inch off the height and 2 inches off the width, which changed some of the door’s design and meant that I would have to come back to do some finish work on it. At least it’s up and locked. I had debated on whether or not I should by a $100 impact drill for use in securing the crawlspace door jams to the foundation, or just make due with a regular drill, but I’m here to tell you it was worth every penny - more evidence for the idea that if you’re finding the job too hard, you don’t have the right tool. I did, and it couldn’t have been easier.

Standing inside the cabin on Sunday, I had to admit that I was just a little disappointed – the interior of the cabin was darker than I thought it would be. This is because the three windows on the road side face north, there's no window in the Southeast corner (due to the entry closet), and the window heights conspire with the roof overhang to shut out most of the direct sunlight. I suspect that the situation will be better in the winter when the sun is lower, but I may need to rethink the closet design to allow for at least one more window. The LSW also opined that the drywall is likely to brighten up the interior significantly, and I’m guessing she’s right. A skylight or two would also help, but I just can’t cotton to the idea of a hole in the roof.

The neighbor up the hill stopped by on his 4-wheeler and introduced himself. I asked him what he knew about the property – I reckoned it to be too small and hilly for crop or grazing land, but the stone wall and some remaining strands of barbed wire hinted that it was used for something. He said that it had been an apple orchard in the 30s and 40s when he was growing up in the cabin across the street, and that he could see all the way down the hill and across the neighbor’s fields. The land is mostly forested now - it's surprising how much nature can reclaim in 70 years. He also mentioned that the trails at the top of the hill (one of which is the abandoned portion of our road) let out in 4 different places, and recommended a 4-wheeler as the best method for exploring them. So now – in addition to the planned Snowmobile – I’ve got two toys on my wish list.

The LSW helped with the doors, chased after the boy, procured lunches, and painted the trim boards, which will go up throughout September. Other work that remains: Self-adhering flashing around the windows, Tyvek on the back gable, and shingles on the sides. At that point, the initial funding for this little escapade – about $56,000 – will be depleted. I figure that there is about $35,000 in work left, including the well, septic, plumbing, wiring and finishing, so now I’ll be forced to pray for raises, bonuses and tax returns if we’re ever actually going to enjoy the place. Of course, if we think of it as a big tent, we’ve now got a place to camp…