Saturday, June 25, 2011


For all seven of you who have been waiting on pins and needles to hear how today's construction work turned out...

The morning dawned grey and threatening. A thunderclap fortuitously shook Max and his friend Dylan (who slept over last night) from their beds a little after 8. I had acceded to the sleepover because it would be the last before Hank and Max depart for 3 weeks at Interlochen early tomorrow. I knew I'd made the right decision after seeing Dylan trounce Max and their friend Rebekah in arm wrestling--he was surely going to be an asset when the time came to raise those framed panels. Before we'd finished breakfast (waffles) there was a cloudburst...and then it stopped and the skies cleared.

Hank and I took stock of the site once more and considered how best to move the panels into position.

The plan was to move the north and east walls first and attach them to one another using 3.5" screws. I was nervous about Hank's back--squatting and lifting seem to be the most problematic activities. Sure enough, as he started to lift the first panel off the garage floor, he halted abruptly and shook his head. Time to call in reinforcements.

Hank and I have a rhythm with these kinds of projects and a well-developed non-verbal and semi-verbal vocabulary. Suffice to say that things don't go as smoothly when I'm trying to direct and collaborate with a pair of teenage boys. But eventually, we wrestled the first two panels into place on the foundation.

The ground was wet and the clayey soil clung in clumps to all of our shoes. I promised Dylan I'd buy him a new pair. The long screws necessary to make it through the flat side of a 2x4 and deep enough into the paired 2x4s that make up the corner posts to hold it all together balked going into some of the posts. Hank proposed pre-drilling. Pre-drilling is one of our bedrock disagreements. I am rabidly impatient and don't tolerate well the swapping of drill bits and extra time required to pre-drill. I'm also unconvinced that it helps most of the time. On a previous project, where I conceded pre-drilling was necessary, we set up the corded drill with the drill bit and the cordless drill with the driver bit, speeding the operation to a tolerable pace. We did eventually do some pre-drilling and I will grudgingly admit that it probably helped.

If I was a better documentarian, I would have photographed the first pair of panels, but the tension level was high and we were focused on getting the structure stable. We finally got all four in place and released the boys to go back to their video games!
Even this was taken after I'd already started putting up floor joists!
We decided that the easiest way to stabilize it was to put in the floor joists, so that came next. With the boys gone, Hank and I fell into our usual pace and the banter that goes along with it. (warning: PG rated material--and totally lame humor--ahead) Me (seriously): "nail or screw, what do you think?" Him: "either! nailing and screwing are both good." I know, just awful. But it broke through my anxiety and made me laugh. The joists went in easily, plumb and level.
And then...we were hungry (a hunger not to be satisfied by tofu!) and the need to get everything packed for Interlochen pressed in on us. I had hoped to get the roof on today, but it will have to wait. If anyone wants to come and help steady the ladder and hold the 2x4s for me tomorrow or some night this week, I'll buy dinner and put you on the egg list!

I climbed up and perched on a floor joist, savoring the solid feeling of the coop structure. It's big. And it feels a little like a tree house with a fantastic view to the south and east:
It's going to make a wonderful home for our birds. And if the city doesn't lift its restrictions, I could always use it as an office!

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