Sunday, April 29, 2012

raise high the roof(beam)

And tack down the floor, while you're at it. That's what yesterday was all about. Ever since the successful move, I have been itching to get out there and finish the coop. But between the weather and my crazy schedule... I've been doing almost as many playing gigs in the past couple weeks as I used to do in similar stretches back in the old days when I was "only" a musician. And whenever I do have a free evening or weekend block of time, it rains. Or, like it eventually did yesterday, hails. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Yesterday did not look like a sure bet, weather-wise, but when it wasn't actually raining yesterday morning, we decided to seize the opportunity--a whole day off for both Hank and me. The first order of business was to get the floor in: sheets of 19/32" plywood, cut to fit the 6x6 square of the coop. Actually, I had started on the floor Wednesday night, figuring I could at least cut the boards to fit and install them another day. That turned out less than successfully. For my first cut (and the first time I'd used the circular saw since last summer) I needed to shear about 23 inches off the end of a 4x8 sheet. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, 19/32" plywood is quite heavy. I cut halfway across one direction and moved around the other side to cut the other half. As I finished the cut, the scrap fell (as it naturally would) directly on to my left shin/ankle, leaving a pretty impressive gash, which stubbornly insisted on bleeding in a manner that required me to deploy my Girl Scout first aid skills: elevation and pressure. So much for that effort. [On a side note, as I sat waiting for the blood to stop, I checked my email and, as long as I was stuck there, responded to a message. That response appears to have been crucial in favorably resolving a case I've been working on since 2008. So it wasn't all a loss.]

So yesterday I was feeling decidedly mortal and a little anxious as we set to work. The floor went in without incident and looked terrific:
Next came the rafters:
I should say right now, in the unlikely event anyone reading this might be tempted to use these photos as some kind of a guide to coop construction, this roof structure is decidedly improvised. I have done lots of construction projects over the years, but somehow I've managed to avoid ever having to do a roof. I knew I wanted a corrugated aluminum shed roof but none of my resources really gave a good model for how to design and construct one. So I spent a fair amount of time imagining and drawing. But even then, there were things that ended up different from how I had imagined them--mostly because materials didn't perform exactly as I had imagined they would. It's a good lesson to remember.

Part of the rationale for putting the floor in before constructing the roof was the idea that we could place a ladder more easily and safely on the floor than on the soft dirt around the coop and work on at least part of the roof from inside the coop. I'm glad we did, but even that did not prevent me from having to climb up the giant ladder (not seen in any of these photos) with a drill to drive screws through the aluminum roof at the tallest point of the coop (which towers over the yard at about 10 feet at its peak). 
This shot gives a sense of the coop's majesty
I was not thrilled. As I get older, it seems likelier and likelier to me that I will seriously injure myself doing one of these projects. That whole drill-12-feet-in-the-air maneuver seemed precisely calculated to land me on the ground with several broken bones. You may be relieved to hear that it didn't. Still, as my enthusiasm for risk flagged, Hank stepped up and, capitalizing on his superior height (at least that's what we told ourselves), did the lion's share of the scary work.

At one point, the skies darkened, thunder rumbled and great big raindrops started to fall. We retreated inside for a pause, but when that storm cell passed, we resumed work. By the end of the afternoon, we had both floor and roof in place:
And then Hank went off to coach a high school reed trio and I picked up the tools. And not a moment too soon. Around 6:00 the tornado siren sounded. I looked outside, listened, sniffed the air. It seemed fine, so Max and I didn't immediately head for the basement. A few minutes later, I looked out the window and then back at the clock--it was dark as night to the north and west. At which point I grabbed phone, computer and fiddle (and Max, of course) and hustled into our basement "closet room"--a windowless space on the northeast corner of the house outfitted as a large closet/linen storage area. I checked the radar map on my computer and Max quelled anxiety by scrolling through funny pictures online on his. After a few minutes we heard what sounded like Maddy's nails clicking on the floor above. Maddy is terrified of storms and I had assumed she was already in the basement, where she tends to flee as the barometric pressure drops. Then I realized the clicking we were hearing was more than just Maddy's nails. I popped out of the closet room to call her down to us. As I did I could see it out the basement window--massive chunks of ice, like demonic ping-pong balls, falling from the sky, bouncing as they hit the driveway. 

We were lucky. We lost a few branch tips from our plums and the hood of my car has four distinctive new dimples. But no windows were broken and no one was hurt. And the coop, with its shiny new roof, was not blown away by a coop-snatching tornado!
as seen from the back porch...which, incidentally, has been tapped as the next project!

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