Monday, November 21, 2011

Porch and Addition

Forgot the tape measure, used Annie instead.
     Four years later the holes were dug for the rest of the cabin. Life lesson: dig yourself a hole and work your way out. Didn't know it at the time, and don't remember whose half-cocked opinion it was, but I've read it ain't a cabin if it's more than twelve hundred square feet. Ours just squeezes under if the porch is included. Doesn't really matter though. Outhouse and well. How much more cabin-like can a building be?
     No doubt about it, this second time around I got lazy. Same depth for holes but I build forms. And called up the Redi-mix guys. And had a local man do the rebar up exactly as the good Lord intended. After the concrete was poured the man said, "Give me a call in fifty years and let me know how they're holding up." Twenty four to go.
     Built and joined two beams in an L shape upon the six new piers. The L paralleled the south and west sides of the cabin. Sixty running feet of triple two-by-tens. Lois helped me raise them on the piers. Heavy, heavy beams. She was having difficulty getting her end atop, as was I. When she let me know her problem, I yelled, "Shut up and lift!" Talk about stupid, callous and uncaring. Had I been fast enough I'd have run those sound vibrations down before they got to Lois and stuffed them in my pocket. Burned them when she wasn't looking. Sometimes my brain don't work so good. I'll never live that down. Don't deserve to.
     First came the porch. Again my brain was out to lunch. Only made it six feet wide. Don't remember why. Probably had twelve foot joists on hand. Cutting them in half was simpler than picking up a couple of extras. Short sighted indeed. Our best friends learned as we did. Mostly in retrospect. And the continual reminder of living in a space lacking the couple of extra feet necessary for adding a closet (inside joke, ask Lois). Greg and Bonnie always said, "Figure out how big it has to be, then build it a little bigger." Remember, 'snot like we're talkin' mansion here, just a cabin.
     In the years following, we've spent a lot of time on the screen porch. Nearly all of it sitting on the world's heaviest picnic table. Made it from left-overs. Always have left-overs. The rule of thumb for building materials is to buy ten percent more than you need. Screwups and bad wood eat up their share. But I'm cheap, damned cheap. Double and triple measure. However, having extra wood is no problem. Hardly ever goes to waste. Picnic table here, end table there, can never have too many shelves. You could go to the store and drop a small fortune on manufactured cabin furniture or make it yourself with materials at hand. Log, branch, flooring and lumber. What's more cabin-like than making furniture out of the same stuff the cabin's made of? The picnic table was originally made for outdoor use. Built on the ground. Eyeballed to level. Well, kinda level anyway. Fir two-by-eights, one pass through the planer from rough-sawn. Thick and heavy. Put it on the porch decking before the walls went up. Had to move it back and forth as the floor was laid. Ain't going anywhere now unless the walls come down. At the moment it's covered with floral oil cloth from Hawaii. It's a pain in the butt to move when we clean the floor. Doesn't matter. I love that table.
     The addition began in a manic frenzy. Floor joists, insulation and decking went up in one early Spring day. Awake when still dark, finished in the following dark. Twenty minutes for lunch. The only question in my mind that day was, What's next? That's it. Measure, level, drive nails, hoist lumber. What's next? Drove home that night through the glow of grass fires and the sweet smell of smoke. All intentional. People burning off last year's dead. Making way for the new. Screw T. S. Eliot and his April being the cruelest month of all. He was just looking for a theme and trying to make a buck. Nineteen hour day. Uf dah!
     Tom and I have been friends for almost fifty years. His life has wandered over continents in that half century. Don't know if he was so much a mover and a shaker as he was a seeker. Some have called him a free thinker like it was supposed to be a bad thing. He was the first person in our little group of hinterlanders hip to Bob Dylan (took me a couple of years to get past his voice). I set myself on a descent into Vietnam through simple neglect and profound stupidity. Tom took the high road as a Conscientious Objector. Wasn't an easy thing to do in a tough time. Eventually did two years alternative service in the Peace Corps. Tom's home away from home in the mid-seventies was Kabul, Afghanistan.
     In the years following he bounced around from place to place. Always checking out what was around the corner. Seemed to be looking for something. Think he always knew what that something was and also knew it was in his pocket wherever he was. Picked apples. Built irrigation systems in California that eventually washed him back into the Peace Corps. This time Mali in West Africa. The end of the world. Seems to me the Army and the Peace Corps have spent a lot of time and money studying the planet's anatomy. Learned we live on a many-rectummed planet. And sent thousands, sometimes millions, off to examine them. At a cost of billions. Maybe trillions.
     Back from Africa, Tom reconnected with Lois and me. Didn't have much going for him in those first months. That's how he came to be staying at the cabin while the addition was going up. I shamelessly worked him like a dog. Together we framed and sheathed. Put a cedar shake roof on. Tom prepared tasty - Tom loves that word, tasty - combinations in a pressure cooker and was always up for driving a few more nails.
     Nothing in this life gets done alone. I sometimes strut around cornering the innocent to let them know the cabin was built by me alone. But know that just ain't so. Couldn't have done it without the grace of friends and family. Good thing most of us were young, stupid and relatively poor. Driving nails and moving dirt almost seemed like fun.
     My vision of the addition told me I needed a new tool. A big tool. Yeah don't we all? So that's why I was standing in a Fleet Farm looking at table saws. The Man in Black walked up behind me that Sunday morning when I should have been in church and set me straight. Black from head to foot. Black shoes, socks, pants, dress shirt, tie, suit jacket, beard, hair and hat with a small, flame-red feather. Said I should look elsewhere. Sears maybe. "A radial arm saw is what you really want. Isn't it? Hmm?" When he added I didn't even have to sacrifice my soul to get one, how could I deny him? Turned out he was right. The saw made a lot of cuts both easier and more accurate. Almost fancy, if you consider straight lines and tight angles fancy. Being half German I found them orgasmic.
     A simple misunderstanding led to the addition becoming two stories. Gotta learn to listen better. But what's done is done. Nothing fancy about the job. Framing, sheathing, covering with impregnated felt - don't that sound fertile? The old timers say a building needs to breath, therefore the felt - and an outer layer of one-by-twelve, rough sawn cedar to match the original cabin. Ah, but the roof was a tad out of the ordinary. Together, me and Tom built three overstuffed roof trusses. Double two-by-six for the side ones. The center, a step and a half stronger. Each was bird-mouthed every two feet. Four-by-six cross beams, also bird-mouthed were whacked in at right angles. The final product, a huge latticework over-hanging two feet on all sides. Kinda made it up as I went along. Never got around to drawing up a plan  for the addition either. Saw it in my head and built it. Somehow it all tied together. No big deal actually. A building's just a big box. The button-up was finished when the casement windows, a lot of 'em, went in.

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