The Timber-Framed Cabin Project Continued (Part 11 - - Spring/Summer 2010)

Made It There in Mid-June

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This page continues the story of the construction of a timberframe cabin in the Sierra Madre Mountains. This particular page covers Spring and Summer 2010. You can access the previous pages through the index of my timberframe cabin pages at and through the links on the sidebar.

Made it there in Mid-June.

This (the photo above and those below) is what the trip looked like on the way. You'll note some flooding and enough snow to keep the van over a mile from the cabin.

The chimney Survived!

Looks like the new support structure for the chimney worked this year. And that's despite snows 140% of normal. Probably that means we need not worry about it in other years.

Of course, with all the snow still around there wasn't a whole lot of work I could do on the cabin. I did make a quick run out to Saratoga for a few supplies and to look at the North Platte. To say it is running high is a bit of an understatement. You'll note the sandbags in the first photo:

Word is that the Encampment River is as high as they've ever recorder it and the North Platte is nearly as high as some prior record. High snow packs, late additional snows, and then a quick warming with rains will do that, apparently.

Another Quick Project

I did get a chance to install a bin that I had made earlier in the spring at home. This is a shot of it next to the one I did last year. A small cabin clutters quickly so I'm trying to maximize storage that I can still reach in the winter. This bin is part of that project:

And here's another project done at home -- restoring an old folding stepstool/ladder. This will allow us to reach the bins and double as a small table that can be stored out of the way.

The Snow is Finally Gone

On June 29th the( snow monitor ) says it is gone.

A Trip on the 4th with Guests

The fourth of July weekend and the week following gave Jenny and I a chance for an extended visit to the cabin and a chance to entertain friends from Lincoln. Jenny and I got there a day early in time to get things up and running and to retrieve the tent I'd used while building the cabin to use as guest accomodations. We didn't set up the tent, but we did have it ready to hand so that our guests, Scott and Sarah, could choose a place they'd want to sleep in it.

Upon our arrival at the cabin site we noted a proliferation of mushrooms matching the description for edible puffballs. Accordingly we collected a few and took them to the ranger station near Ryan Park in hopes that someone there could confirm our identification of these as edible mushrooms. Immediately upon displaying our samples the volunteer at the desk volunteered that these were delicious, confirming our suspicions. He told us much more and we departed the station more knowledgeable and hoping to make a meal of our most recent mycological discovery.

Upon our return, we found that Sarah and Scott had arrived. We set up the tent and took a hike down the unnammed tributary to Nellie Creek that runs through out land, to Nellie Creek and eventually to Crow Creek. Then, with muddy feet, we made our way back. And we had dinner. A dinner which included puffballs:

FWIW, it also included Copper River Salmon grilled over the coals of a fire in the burn barrel, and tomato, basil and mozzarella salad in a balsamic vinagrette. But those ingredients came from elsewhere. The mushrooms came from our surroundings and were therefor of greater interest. Since only I had bowel distress, and since I had it prior to eating the puffballs, I think we can call the experiment a success. Still, I think I prefer boletes to puffballs.

Later in the weekend we took a long hike up the North fork of the Encampment River. The following shots were mostly taken along the way. They show us, an abandoned cabin probably built for tie hacks who hewed railroad ties out of timbers harvested about a century ago,local flora, and a fish.

Tree Felling and Tree Planting

Still later in the week we felled a few trees in less than good health each of which had lost their tops.

We also planted some Aspen starts that we purchased from the Saratoga Encampment Natural Resources district. These are trees native to the area from a nursery in Colorado. If we lose many of the existing pine and spruce trees between us and the road we will lose some privacy. And with the beetle epidemics such a loss is a real possibility. So we planted the aspens three to a hole in places where their presence might mitigate any such loss. It will be years before they make much of an impact, but it will also be nice to have them if they are needed. The folks at the NRD suggested we mix earth from around existing aspens into the fill dirt. Aspens mostly propogate from rizomes and this has something to do with it. I'm not sure exactly what it is supposed to do, but apparently this is supposed to be a good idea.

Anyway, here are a couple of photos:

It was pleasant to have had visitors out west, keeping us from working too much. Of course that means that there isn't all that much to photograph even with a ten day visit. We left things pretty much as we found them, but we ourselves left in mid-July somewhat more relaxed than we had come.

Flooring Frenzy and Mycological Mayhem

This (along with some competing obligations in places other than Wyoming) left us a 5 day visit toward mid-August to complete planned and needed work. The plan was to install a medium sized (50 watt) solar panel above the main panel and below the ten watt small panel after each of these were moved somewhat higher up in the tree on which they are mounted. For various reasons this would provide a somewhat more reliable source of charge current in times when the sun is lower on the horizon as it is for much of the winter. Also in the plan was to floor the cabn interior with varnished tongue and groove flooring, and to make a stove surround of slate.

All of this required preparation. One part was obtaining enough slate to provide an appropriate fire safe area around the stove. I had one old chalk board that I'd bought at auction for five dollars when Beatrice Middle School was demolished a few years back. But I needed more. It struck me that Connors, the local house parts store, had contracted to salvage Bancroft Hall when the University foolishly decided to bulldoze it rather than fix it up as part of its long term plan to make the university as much like a subeurban office park as possible. Bancroft was a wonderful former early 20th century grade school building with lots of marble, oak and slate chalk boards. It was a wonderful building to teach in and the natural light from the windows and the large boards on which to write made for some of my best classes at UNL over the years. Now all that was gone, but perhaps the chalk board slates could still be found. So I went to see Sid Connor. Sid put me in touch with a guy who had helped him on the job and who wound up with many of the salvaged blackboards. I got one four foot by about five foot piece for the decent price of a hundred dollars and another smaller somewhat damaged piece for free as part of the bargain. I was pretty happy to get them, but also worried about transportation. So I built a support board to which I could strap the slate for transport in the van.

Worries about cracking the slates with the weight of the stove led me to devise a way to more evenly distribute the weight on the feet of the stove that rested on the floor below. I fabricated some two inch discs of steel to place under each foot and over a small bit of silicon fabric from an oven liner. The silicon was high temp resistant to start with and the feet should not be getting too hot in any case. But the thin silicone pads under the steel coasters would mitigate any unevennness in the floor due to the nature of the slate or the stove or both.

I made the steel discs on the lathe like so:

At the same time I looked into wood flooring. The plan had been to use the rest of the rough sawn pine originally for the walls as flooring. We would use a portable planer to thickness it and make it appropriately smooth for floor boards. Alas the planer run off the generator was underpowered for the job. It sniped and left uneven results. Furthermore it was lots of work for only a few feet of flooring. So when we got back to Lincoln I looked into my options. Tim at Lincoln Hardwood and Tool suggested that the 84 lumber chain had some tongue and groove fir flooring I might like. As it turned out it was better than that. They had genuine pine flooring of about 4 inches usable width that seemed to be a cosmetic match for the wall boards. And the cost was about $3 per square foot. The only hitch was that it had to come from Minneapolis and the truck had already left for its weekly delivery. So I ordered 125 square feet and commenced to wait. It took a while but when it came it was apparent that it really was a good match to the wood I'd already used. It even had some blue stains of the sort that are left in beetle killed lodgepole pine, which was just the locally obtained wood I had been using.

Now the trick was getting the wood and the slate to Wyoming in a mini-van. The boards came longer than they were supposed to be, but cutting them to fit inside the an would lead to too much waste and not enough to finish the cabin. So I bought a ladder that I needed out there anyway to work on the solar panels and used that ladder to make a roof rack to ship the flooring. The result looked like this:

So I took the materials out to Wyoming and then drove down to Boulder for a Philosophy conference, planning to return in about a week with Jennifer, who would meet me by train in Colorado.


That plan went well and we arrived in time to entertain friends David and Marianne with some fishing and a dinner of native boletes, Alaska salmon, and garden tomato and basil salad.

The boletes, were plentiful around the cabin. Before they were picked they looked like this:

And immediately above are a number of them after picking. Most of these are King Boletes, though the fifth one in the row is another sort of mushroom in the broad bolete family (as confirmed by the kind folks at the nearby Medicine Bow National Forest visitors center near Ryan Park). We left it aside when we cooked up the rest so as to follow the advice to only eat one sort of wild mushroom at a time. That process led to this:


The following day we commenced work on the floors with a project of installing the slate. This involved laying cement backerboard to fill the entire area to be covered, measuring the slate to determine the space it would fit, and cutting some of it to fit into irregular wall spaces. From there we mixed up thinset mortar, applied it to the cementboard and applied the slate itself to the mortar. The following shots give a rough idea of that process:

Pretty Fancy but hopefully not too fancy.

More Flooring

With the slate installed and the stove back in place on top of the slate, we got to work on the pine flooring. When we originally floored the structure we used nice 3/4 inch plywood. But, probably because it was unpainted, it did not wear well. We often got splinters from it, the floor looked dirty in many areas, and the joints between sheets filled with dirt. So for some time now the plan was to floor over it. Earlier in the week we varnished the flooring with McCloskey Spar Varnish. And, very lucky for me my friend Russ Allen had spotted a floor nailer at an MWTCA tool meet and prevailed on me to get it. I bought staples for it on the way out and we were now in business.

With floor nailers you hit the contraption with a nonmarring mallet and the nailer is supposed to place the nail through the tongue of the piece in question and into the subfloor. Since the subfloor was plywood without regular studs I went with short nails for a 3/4 inch subfloor. Even so I never really got the hang of hitting the nailer so that the nails reliably made it all the way to their final position. This meant that I'd often have to set them to their final depth with a punch and a hammer. Still there wasn't much flooring to do and we got the job done in two afternoons (except for a couple of details that will be completed when I return with a couple of custom ripped pieces to fill in. Anyway, the shots below show much of the process:

Solar Setup Interlude

Another project involved adding another panel to the solar array. As things have stood for two years we have one large 135 watt panel about 8 feet off the ground on a tree with a small ten watt panel higher up for trickle charging in winter when the sun is low on the horizon. Since we have lots of trees on the lot and are on a north facing slope we get a good number of shadows throughout even summer days. In winter I suspect the large panel gets little sun. And since panels must be shadow free to conduct at all, the larger panel is often not working when the shadow from a branch falls on its surface. So earlier in the visit I had moved the small panel up several feet and the larger lower panel up as much as I could without taking the whole support structure apart. This left a place for a new 50 watt Kyocera panel in between. This panel is set at a relatively steep angle since we really need it mostly for the winter when the sun is low.

Anyway, the new panel is mounted on a home made bracket pop rivited out of aluminum and affixed to the tree. This also required adding more fuses to the combiner box, a task made a bit more difficult by the fact that Home Despot no longer carries cheap boxes with fuse mounts that I can cannibalize for parts. So cheaper fuses will have to do for now. They'll work well enough electrically to protect the equipment, but they don't look as nice and might even blow more easily.

The photos below show the results:

Flora, Fungi and Fauna

In between these more organized pursuits we did run across some additional plants and critters worth a photo or two. We present some here with and without commentary.

Jenny took several walks and photographed flowers, rocks and mushrooms.

The red and white mushroom above is the poisonous fly agaric or Amantia muscaria. They are to be avoided, but they often grow near boletes as this photo attests. The spiky purple mushroom is probably a Clavaria purpuria aka fairy fingers. They were abundant this year as well as the others you see on this page.

We saw deer a couple of times. Once near the cabin in the woods and again in town near our storage locker:

More Mushrooms

With the floors mostly done and a new ground wire on the new panel it was time to head for home. (A trip involving moaning straps, flat tires, interminable waits for triple A, hail storms to stop traffic on the interstate, and a plague of bugs but no actual locusts, but we won't get into that.) But before we left we picked a few mushrooms for meals in Lincoln. One sack held boletes, the other sack held . . .

Chanterelles. Which made for a nice cream soup when we arrived home.

We should credit our friends Chris and Ann in Washington for pushing us down the mushroom harvesting path. After reading about our use of Schwab's Mushrooming Without Fear to identify boletes last season they sent us two books by David Aurora, the larger of which, Mushrooms Demystified, is especially full of information. We've now added a book by Very Stucky Evenson on the Mushrooms of Colorado which nicely fits the region we are in just north of the border. With these books and some help from the Forest Service information office near Ryan Park we've been pretty sure of what we have been eating.

Labor Day Weekend

I know that Labor Day gets its name from the idea that it is to honor those who labor, not a day on which to labor. But, since the seasons end early at high elevation, we in fact spent the weekend laboring. Not that it wasn't rewarding in its own way.

First up was completion of the flooring project. We had taken a bit of the flooring home on our last trip to rip it to width on the tablesaw at home, rather than set up the saw in Wyoming. (We took that one to the locker in Encampment later in the weekend.) So we installed the two remaining pieces of floor and proceeded to work on baseboard to cover the gaps between the flooring and the wall surface. The photos below pretty well speak for themselves:

And here is a decent shot of the overall result:

This earned us a nice meal which the surrounding woods provided much of:

Russ Comes Through Again

I described the modifications to the solar combiner box undertaken on our last visit to install and extra solar panel. And I remarked on the need to use somewhat cheezy fuse holders and fuses because Home Despot no longer stocked switches that could easily be cannibalized for the fuse holders which could then be modified for protecting solar panels and wiring connecting to those.

I also mentioned that my friend Russ convinced me to buy the flooring nailer that came in so handy on the last trip. Well, at virtually the same time I was using the flooring nailer, Russ was going to a flea market. And at that flea market he bought a large fused electrical box and emailed me about it the next day. A day well before the time I got the posting up about the cheezy fuses. You see, Russ seems able to just look at me and at some item on a flea market table and determine that it is something I am going to need. Where these strange powers come from, it is hard to say. Perhaps I'm just utterly predictable. But I'd prefer to think that Russ has an unique ability to foretell the future, or . . .

Anyway, I was able to use the parts Russ kindly mailed me (free of charge, even!) to make some fuse holders and fit them into the combiner box to replace the cheezy Radio Shack fuse holders never meant for this sort of work in the first place. (Not that I am criticizing Radio Shack for carrying these fuses and fuse holders. They're great for another sort of project and since I often work on such projects I am grateful to them for carrying them.) The results looked so:

We also put some time in to make a solid holder for our portable propane tanks so that the heavy winter snows would not move them. Concrete should do the job well enough:

Besides this we brought some things down to the storage locker for the winter, tidied things up around the cabin also in preparation for winter, and did some tiny projects such as finding a place for the newly acquired old comfy folding chairs for the porch, making a home for the Disston crosscut saw that has seen us through most of the project, and a few things not photogenic enough to mention.

Fall Break Mayhem

There was another trip out to work on some final details Fall break weekend in October. Alas the van lost the important gears in the transmission (while going 75+ in the left lane to pass a truck with another behind it) around Sidney and I had to continue on in a rental car. The good news was that Alfred was up for much of the cabin visit and we got to share some pleasant dinners. (The bad news was the transmission, replacement car rental, and unanticipated hotel fees set me back about $3K for a vehicle whose book value is substantially less than that.) I also did manage to bury some decent wine in experimental tubes below the soil in hopes that they might not freeze and yet be accessible to me in winter. We'll see. Photo of the "Wine cellar" below. Also a photo of some work I did on the drainage ditch next to the road up above the driveway. Since the neighbors dug out their pond it has been running heavier than it used to and this makes it erode the road. I've now placed a tree trunk alongside the bank to stabilize it, and also piled rocks and such behind it. Another project for which, "we'll see" seems appropriate.

But what I'm really posting about is that the road to Battle pass has remained open until mid November, though it is now closed.

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