Shangri La

Shangri La

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Second Annual 'Big Push' Weekend!

Noting the slow progress of the remaining work, The Slave Drivers conspired to convene in Shangri-La to whip the effort into shape. Somehow they tricked me into joining them. The plan was to finish the drywall and ceilings so that the LSW and The Boy didn't have to feel that they were living in a construction zone each time they came to enjoy what is - overtly at least - a vacation home.

I forgot my camera, but my sister came prepared and documented the proceedings. The results, in no particular order...

There was a whole lot of cuttin' goin' on. 2,000 linear feet of tongue-and-groove pine bead board to cover the ceilings both downstairs and up. Doing the ceilings in wallboard is cheaper, but more intimidating to the do-it-yourselfer. Or at least to this one. And who wants to tape, mud, sand and paint overhead?

Installing the pine overhead was just a matter of logistics. The process we settled on involved 4 chairs topped with two-by-four supports and capped with 3 8-foot sections of pine to walk on, a ladder on the edge of the loft to sight the seams, two hammers and scrap pine to get everything tight, and a large trim nailer to lock them in place. Here I'm demonstrating my mastery of a critical piece of equipment: A broken piece of white pine ship lap used to jimmy the 'sproingitty' pieces in place for nailing. Note the metal joist strapping; I didn't know if it would cause the boards that crossed it to bend downward - it didn't.

Mmm...breakfast. The Slave Drivers kept us in food throughout the weekend. My father took care of two dinners out and grilled steaks one night and burgers another. My sister took care side dishes and breakfasts, which included...

Bacon in a cup!!

Once 'the system' was in place, the ceiling under the front loft took about 2 1/2 hours. Every board - although nominally the same length as the loft - had to be trimmed, and we had to work around one light and the entry closet. It was surprising how much the ceiling brightened the downstairs; paint on the walls should help further.

As we're currently sleeping in the living space, every day ended with about an hour of clean up. The cots, bed rolls and sleeping bags are seen here stacked in the corner; most days, they passed the day stacked on the [new!] back porch.

When we cleared the kitchen for ceiling work, I took the opportunity to lay the remaining tile backer board. We had just enough to complete the kitchen and extend the entry tile to the entry closet. My sister claims a hellish marathon backer board session at her house a couple of years ago, but I'm skeptical. The work is as easy as drywall: Score, break, lay and secure. We tried to show her, but she was so traumatized from her previous experience that she refused to look.

We spent the first evening relaxing on the front porch, but had to move to the back when the materials arrived. Afternoon storms were in the forecast, and so the porch became materials storage for most of the weekend.

The aforementioned 'system', and a clever way to to keep the trim nailer handy when not in hand.

While the living room ceiling was going up, I finished the framing and insulation of the gable ends so the wall board could be installed. I had devised a particular system for doing both gables with 4 sheets of dry wall, and we wasted considerable time while I described that system to my father, who - it turned out - had an even cleverer idea that eliminated two seams. My experience is that you're never quite as smart as you think.

Hmm...steak, potatoes, onions, garlic and beer (not pictured).

The Slave Drivers enjoying a libation on the back porch.

Yours truly setting the decking in place. Note the safety shoes we're always careful to wear on the work site. Fun fact: It was 95 degrees and humid as hell!

The slave drivers proudly display the 'architects model' for the cabin. Surprisingly, it was the perfect side to double as the gable-end dry wall...

If you don't have the materials (or energy) to light the fire pit, I'd suggest citronella candles. Bonus: As the evening goes on, they get creepy-looking, providing a perfect backdrop to ghost stories. Not pictured: The bats overhead early in the evening, and the fox that trotted jauntily across the back yard.

Rest for the weary? Actually, no: After this picture was taken, I was up most of the night because camping cots suck.

The insulation in the lofts has been half-finished for months, and this weekend we finally completed the work. Good riddance to bad work! I'm wearing gloves, but that's just psychological protection. You breath the stuff, it gets all over your skin and clothing, it itches and - coupled with the heat and humidity - makes you feel filthy and miserable. Next to roofing, hands-down the worst do-it-yourself job.

My father is the resident expert in taping and mudding, and he took care of rough-coating the downstairs dry-wall on the first day. The morning of the last day, he finished the final coat in the bath, so we should be able to lightly sand and then prime the bath on the next trip up.

One of the 'small' jobs of the weekend was removing the back door to figure out why it was leaking. The short answer: Installer error. No drip cap above, and no caulk under the exterior trim. Water was running down the sides, finding its way under the trim and settling on the sub floor. The door came out, the mold was killed with bleach, a drip-cap was installed, and the door went back in properly caulked. Hopefully, the problem is now solved. In celebration, I bought a screen door that will go up next time.

I hadn't thought about what we'd do with the underside of the bridge, so we went with my father's idea to use the ceiling material installed at a 90-degree angle. I think it works well.

Me and Sis.

The loft ceilings were more of the same, but a lot more awkward given the length - almost 28 feet - and the 45-degree angle. We built temporary bridges to span the cathedral, but were slowed by the fact that the rafter framing was not always exact on so the measurements of each piece needed to be verified. We had just started to get a system in place when we ran out of time (and energy!). 1/4 of the loft ceilings are complete.

Still, it looks finished if you stand in just the right place...

Dad and I on the back porch.

Great weekend, nice visit, and more work done than I would have accomplished alone all year! It takes a village. Or at least a family.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On insulation and bugs

LSW here and we’re back from a gorgeous weekend in the Green Mountain State. But first, I need to recap our visit a couple of weeks ago. We’re slowly getting brave enough to tell people to come visit us. There’s not enough room to have overnight guests yet, but my brother and his wife came up for the weekend and stayed at the Latchis in Brattleboro. We went to the Vermont Country Store (where they were having a candy contest—fun!). We bought a dragon bell for the cabin and that night we had our first campfire on the front lawn. We’re getting there, slowly but surely.

You rang?
This past weekend was an unexpected trip. We originally had plans with friends at home to do some crazy mountain tubing hijinx, but the vertigo got the better of me and we had to cancel. So up to Vermont we went.
On the way up, we stopped at the Putney Co-Op to buy a “few” things to add to all of the CSA vegetables we brought up with us. I suggested we go to the grocery store, but the Vermonster is all about supporting the local scene. We did our part by dropping $75 there. Ah well, we’re healthier for it.

Setting up the cabin has gotten to be a much quicker, easier routine now that we’ve done it a few times. I set up the “kitchen” and the Vermonster sets up the cots and sleeping bags. I made a big salad for dinner and we popped open a bottle of wine and played Life on the front porch with The Boy. We forgot firewood for the firepit, so we went inside and watched a couple of episodes of The Simpsons before calling it a night.
This time, The Vermonster brought along his favorite pillow and, like the road less traveled, it made all the difference. He had a good night’s sleep.

Because the cabin is situated on the southwestern side of the mountain, we don’t see the sun until about 7:30 in the morning. This is distressing to the Vermonster, but makes me very happy. The boys were up and out by 8:30 and went to the lumber yard where they ordered $1700 worth of sheetrock, insulation and tongue-and-groove beaded pine ceilings. The Boy got a free American flag out of the deal, so nobody can say we didn’t get a bargain.
Apparently they then stopped for some Mocha Joe’s coffee and homemade donuts (none of which made it back to me). It’s the price you pay for sleeping late, I suppose.
Insulated gable #1

[Vermonster here: For $1,700, we got 2,000 linear feet of 6” beadboard pine ceilings, 300 square feed of R38 insulation and 4 sheets of 3/8” wall board. The insulation will complete the ceilings, the wallboard will complete the gable walls in the lofts, and the ceiling material will be used in the kitchen, bath, living room, lofts and cathedral. This work will be the focus of an upcoming weekend with my father and sister – stay tuned. I have no excuse for the missing donut and coffee.]
Insulated gable #2

The Vermonster finished putting the insulation on the gabled walls in the lofts, while The Boy and I cleaned the porch to prep it for staining. The sun was strong, so it didn’t take too long to dry, but The Boy had other ideas and continued to spray it down. We gave up on the idea of staining the deck and washed my car instead.
Child labor at its finest

We quit work around noon to head up to the Quechee Balloon Festival. We went last year and loved it, so we were excited to go again. This time, we got off in Springfield to see if there were any stores there for future reference (if, for instance, we ever forget pillows and underwear again), but we got diverted because of a parade, so we still don’t know what’s there. The town of Woodstock was getting ready for its own parade, otherwise we would’ve stopped there. Apparently it was National Parade Day and we forgot to build a float. Woodstock looked very cute with little shops and cafes; we’ll have to go back.  

This year, the Balloon Festival switched locations, due to damage incurred by Hurricane Irene. It was a beautiful day. The sun was bright and the blue sky was full of big puffy clouds. The Boy spent a good part of the day on various bouncy death traps that no doubt harbored all sorts of nasty germs. We took a walk through a nature preserve, then decided it was time for an early dinner. Choices included fried this, fried that, fried this and that and crepes. The one major problem with the festival is that you can only have beer or wine inside the beer tent. When happy hour hit, we were wishing we packed a flask.

The balloons were supposed to take off at 6. We placed our chairs on the field around 5, at which point some little old lady came and stood right behind our chairs and started talking on her cell phone. She had an entire field in which she could’ve stood. Why was she standing right behind us?  Exasperated, the Vermonster and The Boy went to explore. The old lady finally left, only to be replaced a few minutes later with another old lady, this one eating popcorn. Right behind my seat. I half expect to see us on a hidden camera show.
The winds were picking up and the launch kept getting postponed. Finally at 7 we decided to pack it up. We went to the balloon festival and didn’t see any balloons. Wah, wah, wah.
Sunburned and exhausted, we drove the hour home, during which The Boy fell asleep. When we pulled into the driveway, his eyes popped open and he pointed to sky. “I saw it take off!” he shouted.

We got him into his pajamas and he settled into bed to read my copy of “123 Magic,” a book on disciplining your children. (I don’t know if he retained any of it or not.) Meanwhile, we sat on the porch with our long-awaited drinks and listened to the night sounds. Frogs, crickets, bats, something rustling in the woods. We’re still not used to this country living.

[Vermonster: By ‘we’, the LSW must mean her and The Boy. I feel right at home in the country. There was enough wildlife noise that night that I was put in mind of the jungle, however…]

Sunday, we slept late again. We cleaned up the cabin and then headed to Saxton’s River for breakfast. It was packed… what gives? We realized it was Father’s Day. (Henri had given Brian his gift on Friday… a decoupaged rock that said, “My dad rocks.”) It was crazy busy but our breakfasts were delicious (even if they did forget the eggs in my egg skillet). The best part of the morning was when The Vermonster inadvertendly gave the waitress a 60% tip. Today’s good deed.
We headed back to the cabin to finish packing and then we stained the deck before leaving. It wasn’t the most productive weekend we’ve had, but it was relaxing and lovely. The weekend did, however, leave us with some unanswered questions, such as:
1) What are the tiny little bugs flying into the shingles and are they doing damage?
2) Why is the back door leaking and why do we have to spend $250 to fix it even though it’s only been in for a year?
3) What are the little worms (larvae?) we keep finding in the bath tub every morning and where are they coming from? Stay tuned as we look for answers to these, and other questions.