Sunday, January 30, 2011

Basement VI

So here is that relatively neat look mentioned in Basement V - but be prepared. It doesn't last long! This is the day before the stone masons come. We're almost ready for them. There are a couple things we'll quickly finish after we find out some last minute details. For instance, a couple of electrical outlets and an access door to the fireplace mechanical panel must be placed where he can work around them. We'll quickly finish that while they carry in supplies.

The mantle is a 5.25 inch slab of hardwood from northern Michigan.

OK here's the mess again.
Stone masonry is new to me but after watching it for a few hours now, I'd like to give it a go sometime. First a layer of tar-paper gets stapled on as a vapor barrier. Next, a wire mesh is cut to fit and tacked in place. Finally, a mortar mix is spread over the wire with a grooved trowel. This leaves a rough surface and is left to dry at least overnight. Tomorrow with a fresh batch of mortar, he will carefully look for stones that compliment each other in size, shape and color, then "butters" the back side of the stones and stick them in place.

My story got ahead of the photos.
Right now, the boxes of stones have been opened with the hope they will dry out some overnight. They have been stored outside and snow got in easily enough but now that they are at room temperature the water doesn't escape quite so easily.

Basement V

It's interesting to note as I peruse the photos taken during this project how many times the room has rotated between an utter chaotic mess and relatively clean & neat. Each phase brings a new and different clutter consisting of supplies & materials, tools and to this point, high volumes of dust.

Up goes the ceiling. Knotty pine, 1x5 end-matched tongue & groove. It goes together extremely well and looks great so far... but we've got to clean up this room so we can work!

This is where we stopped today. A couple more hours work will complete the ceiling. The immediate objective was to get the wood up near the fireplace so the mason can install stone right to the ceiling. Those photos will be coming soon.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter Camp 2011

The weekend of Jan 22.

Six inches of snow on the ground. Overnight temps predicted to be 15 degrees. Snow flurries possible. Four die-hard winter-time campers in their vehicles and converging on the Pike county farm where we will camp out overnight...

We're fired up!

After arriving and selecting our campsite in the dark, Andy started a fire while I gathered some nearby dead wood. Don started sawing on a downed tree but within a few minutes, he was exhausted. That queasy feeling he'd had most of the day coupled with the sudden lack of energy made it easy to second-guess the decision to come 2.5 hours to sleep on the snow.
There he sits in the orange hat while Andy and I commiserate... and stay warm.

Fortunately, Bruce showed up with some Sierra Mist and that settled Don's stomach - which actually made us all feel better. Unfortunately, he just didn't feel like eating...

Andy's potatoes

Nor did he feel like chewing on a fork-cut tender, marinated, open flame grilled venison steak.

Don even prepared this delicious pot of deer-burger chili cooked over coals but took nary a bite.

Andy chows down.

"Yours truly" digs in.

Thankfully, everyone got a good nights sleep and felt great in the morning.

Here is a look at our Beds & Breakfast.

Bruce upgraded from his 3 sleeping bags last year to his new heavyweight -30 degree rated bag for this year. Toasty!!

The second time out in my -20 rated bag. It was a good investment.

Don's snoozing spot in the snow.

Andy had all ready packed his gear to the truck for the trip home but he shows where he spent the night... with almost all the comforts of home.

Emily? Not quite sure why she changed her mind, but at the last minute she chose ALL the comforts of home.

Four of the reasons we winter camp!

Accompanied by 3 more reasons.

And finally, 5 more reasons. Our company of campers.
Robert (thanks for the use of your woods) Eldon, Don, Andy & Bruce.

Two of our usual cast were unable to attend this year. Rob & Doug, we missed you guys!

Basement IV

We've been looking forward to this. Our wood has arrived from The Woodworkers Shoppe in Comin, Michigan. We unloaded it into the garage for the time being.
One hour after the driver pulled up we've unloaded and she is on her way back to MI with 500 miles to go and hoping to get back before dark. Meanwhile, Brenda and I are headed to St Louis, Mt Vernon and Springfield. We spend a day antique shopping and visit Old St Charles, Mo. From there we head to my folks for a short stay lasting from Sat eve. to Sunday noon. Then off to see Kamela for a day and then home Monday late afternoon so Brenda and I can both get to previously scheduled meetings and appointments.
Finally about 4 days later we get the lumber in the house. Unfortunately, I didn't get photos of myself and 3 other guys passing stack after stack through the basement window. I didn't anticipate getting all the wood indoors in one session but that is what happened.
Although the walkways are now considerably more restrictive!
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Construction of a different type

The basement project continues but with a slight interruption.

Brenda decided an igloo in her classroom would be really cool!
She sent home a requisition for building materials with her students.
Six year old kids tend to show excitement when excited... and they were.

Empty milk jugs started flowing to Room 14 by the dozen!

So to work we went. Brenda squeezing the trigger on her hot glue gun to the point of
developing a blister on her trigger finger. My job was to place the jugs on the freshly poured hot, liquid glue.

231 jugs, a few dozen hot glue sticks and 1 yard-stick late the project is complete.

If you ever build one, we learned a couple things you might want to know.
The most important perhaps is: rinse the jugs really, really good!

Imagine sitting in your own igloo. A good book in hand, lantern glowing, blankets comforting, penguins to keep you company. Ah, the joys of 1st grade in Eureka.

They love it!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Basement III

We've decided to lower the ceiling in the walkways leading to the new room. With water lines, wiring, duct work having been somewhat placed somewhat haphazardly it seemed like the thing to do. This house was moved to this location about 20 years ago and rewired & re-plumbed to the first floor which was nice but not much thought was given to getting things out of the way for a finished basement. We've learned to work around such! By the way, the hanger was the easiest workaround of all. Brenda took it to the laundry room!

Same location, opposite view and after preparing for new and lower ceiling. I'm standing at the bottom step as I shot this photo. Closet will be just to the left of the garbage can.

Standing in front of the fireplace and looking toward junk!

Pole at left now removed. Ducts now hidden with new ceiling framework. Distant junk removed and closet now in place.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Basement II

Next item on the list? The fireplace!
The fireplace shop sent 3 guys out to install and they put it in place and ran the vent in no time at all. They didn't stand around except here while one of the guys jackhammers through the block wall for exhaust pipe installation. Unfortunately, I didn't have the gas line and electrical ready since they came to install ahead of schedule (imagine that!) but they came back later to complete the project.

The fireplace was set on the framework you see on the ground and I came in later
and built the framework.

It sure didn't take long to take advantage of something Brenda has wanted for years. She's cold so much of the winter, sitting beside a fire is like a dream. So while the room is far from done, you can see we've got chairs in place and have enjoyed it's warming comforts all ready.
Here, Brenda is covering the furniture as some nearby drywall is about to be sanded.
More later

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Basement - again

Several months ago I posted some photos of the destruction taking place in our basement. It may seem logical to suppose that because no further story or photos have been posted since last March I've neglected to keep my blog updated. But that would be wrong. Hard as it may be to believe, actually what happened is; nothing! Instead I worked outside, went hunting and pretty much avoided going downstairs.

Sometime around Thanksgiving I came down with a case of motivation and I can't seem to shake it. I'm afraid it might last all winter!

This photo from a previous blog was the last photo taken of Kyle's old bedroom before walls and doors started coming down. The drop ceiling and what were two closets on the left have been removed but basic room layout is still the same.

The long period of "nothing" started here I guess. It looked like this (below) for a long time.

The closets had come out in the previous photo but not the back wall of those closets.
Now they have been removed except for the 2x4 across the floor and a couple studs that supported a small gas heater.
The main issue now is those two support posts are in the open instead of being hidden by closet walls. What to do? I initially wanted to put up a new beam spanning 20' and remove those two posts but I learned after consulting an expert (thanks Bruce) that it would take a pretty impressive steel beam to make it work which was doable but daunting. Time for a change of plans!
Instead, the middle post which supported the concentrated load from upstairs stayed and we were able to add two LVL beams (back side) to the existing beams and span about 11 feet and remove 1 support post.

Now here is a pretty impressive bundle of wood supporting the first floor. Upon removing the 1 support post we had no deflection whatsoever. While I had good advice on how to do this, it was the first time I'd attempted such a project and it was exciting to see it work perfectly after all the planning and effort.

More later.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Morning in the Woods

Written after a hunt in early December 2010

My blood pressure has returned to normal and I’m much calmer than I was yesterday. All the happenings at work made me feel like Murphy was an optimist. I’ve missed the first day of my planned three day hunt, but now it’s time to make the best of the two remaining days. As I pass the city limits of Eureka heading south, a quick glance at the clock in my truck shows it is 3:20 AM. The two and a half hour drive will be quiet and free of traffic. I keep awake by considering which of the numerous spots I’ve hunted in the past might be the prime locations today.
My destination is a private farm in west central Illinois. I’ve had the good fortune of hunting some of the best whitetail habitat in the Midwest for twenty-four years. While it is impossible to know if I’ll be able to fill a tag today, I do know for certain that I’ll see deer. I’ve hunted in these woods for nearly a quarter of a century and never gone a day without spotting some whitetails.

I park my truck and step out into the cold early morning air. It’s a crisp 28 degrees and beautiful. The moon hangs low in the eastern sky. It gives just the slightest sliver of silvery light. It lies like a cradle, but I don’t remember if that means it is waxing or waning. I do know it’s been a dark and moonless night. Likely the deer have been less active than normal during the night's deep darkness, and they may be moving around more during the early morning hours. It’s a good sign.

Quickly, I put on my flannel shirt, climb into my insulated coveralls and then don the mandatory orange vest and hat. I’m anxious to get to the woods but realize I can’t rush. Over the years I’ve spooked too many deer as I hurried into the forest, and I’m determined not to let that happen this morning. I’ll have to constantly red flag my instinct to move too fast.

The recent Thanksgiving holiday is something of a deer hunter’s intermission. Of the Illinois gun season, three days of the seven day season fall the weekend before Thanksgiving and the remaining four days the weekend after. The hunt two weeks ago had yielded a nice doe which helped restock my nearly empty freezer, but I was not able to fill any more of my three remaining tags. I had only the one opportunity to even take a shot, and it seemed like there just weren’t as many deer around. This "second season" I’ve decided to modify my hunting tactics.

My plan is to "still" hunt until late afternoon. Unlike hunting from a stand high in a tree or sitting in a blind I’ll be on the move, but moving slowly; very slowly. “Still” hunting is the lingo used when describing this method. Late in the day as the light fades, I will find a good spot and sit. Deer are always moving as dusk approaches, and I will try and sneak into one of their favorite haunts and become invisible. Now I head toward the woods. The light breeze is blowing directly into my face. That too is a good sign.

The section of woods I’m approaching is probably fifteen acres and is surrounded by farmland except at the lower end where it connects to woods from the neighbor's property. A ditch runs down the middle of its length. The countryside is gently rolling and mostly tillable, but there are many ravines which hold oak and hickory trees as well as numerous osage orange and cottonwoods. I’m going to start on the west end of these woods and slowly work my way east. The ground is covered with a light frost, the wind is almost non-existent once you enter the woods, and walking slowly and carefully, it is possible to move in almost complete silence. Stepping gingerly from the field edge into the woods, my heart jumps as I see five deer on a ridge to my right. They have crossed the field 150 yards distant and are headed northeast. If they and my direction of travel are maintained, there is a chance we’ll come together. My blood pressure is back up a bit but for different reasons than yesterday at the office.

The morning sun is at least a half hour from peeking over the horizon, but there is now enough light to see fairly well. My still hunt plan is in motion. First, I got into the woods without hearing a deer blow or snort which would be a giveaway that I’d been busted. Nor do I hear any running through the leaves. So far, so good. Now I remind myself to move slowly, be alert, look, listen and did I mention, move real slow? As it turns out, I’ll move about two hundred yards in the next two and a half hours. As slow as a snail moving through a construction zone. If deer have any visual limitations, seeing movement isn’t one of them. They pick up movement like a Hoover picks up dirt.

Minutes pass and I’ve moved forward now to a large tree. I think I’ll stay for a bit and survey carefully what is ahead. Whoa! I’ve unknowingly come to an urban area I hadn’t noticed on Google maps- satellite view. This must be downtown Squirrelville. There are five bushy-tailed creatures in this tree alone. It undoubtedly is rush hour. Their morning commute to wherever squirrels travel is stop and go, but unlike motorists on the Kennedy expressway, they are rarely in low gear. When these guys go, they really go. Which works fine I guess, because they can stop on a dime. Really! There are three more squirrels off to the right and two to my left. That makes ten of them I can see right now and there may be more but they only get fleeting attention as I'm looking for other creatures. They are oblivious to my presence, at least until one comes a few feet from my head, does a blazing u-turn and roars back up the tree with his quartet of squirrel friends.

The village of squirrels is left behind as I move in super slow-mo to the next temporary hiding spot. Now I spy Mr. Raccoon. He’s apparently heading home after a night out. He waddles along, and I don’t watch him long as my eyes shift back into deer search mode. His dwelling must be nearby because a few moments later, I glance to where I last saw Rocky, but he’s gone.

The sun has now risen in the east, but until now I’d not seen it due to the slight overcast. It pops out for a few moments. The warmth is immediate, but I try to stay in the shade. When you are trying to stay hidden, stepping into the sunlight feels like stepping into an onstage spotlight.

There doesn’t seem to be much going on at the moment except an occasional bird chirping. It’s not unusual to hear a woodpecker rattle on some nearby tree, and when they do, it echoes throughout the forest. Those silly squirrels frequently leave their wooded highways and bound through the leaves, sometimes giving me the impression there is a deer nearby. After twenty-four years of deer hunting, squirrels still fool me on occasion.

Gunshots sound sporadically from neighboring properties. These booms echo through the still air and stir thoughts in my mind like, “Deer are moving elsewhere, so they probably are moving here too; stay alert!” It’s beginning to seem like I’ve been out here for quite some time, and the only things I’ve snuck up on were rodents. However, a quick glance at my cell phone clock shows it’s just now 8:15 AM. It’s still early but too late to call my wife. On occasion I’ve called her before she starts work and told her I’ve all ready gotten a deer. Not today.

Moving ahead again, I see a nice tree that offers good cover, so I decide to stop there for a while and see what happens. I’m pleased with myself for not getting too hasty so far this morning.

As my eyes search ahead, looking for something that doesn’t fit the vertical lines of the trees, my heart jumps. Something catches my attention but then is gone. Off in the distance, I think I just saw the faintest glimpse of something moving. It wasn’t in a tree but seems to be at ground level. It happens too fast to be sure what it is, but my instinct tells me I’ve seen what I’ve been looking for all morning. I strain to catch another glimpse, but now it seems there is nothing visible except trees. Visions of those five deer I saw before sunup are dancing in my head. I tell myself not to budge! At this point I’ve got the advantage. I saw movement first, so it’s only smart to stay put right here until I see more movement… or until I can’t stand it any longer and my curiosity drives me forward.

Seconds pass, but they seem like minutes. Actual minutes pass. Several of them in fact. I stay concealed. My body hugs the tree and the top of my head and eyes are the only things visible as I look intently off into the distance.

My patience is soon rewarded. Two deer have followed a shallow gully and have moved toward me and therefore were not visible for some time. Now they step over a ridge to my left and appear to be headed in my general direction. Good thing I stayed where I was or they certainly would have seen me moving forward.
I don’t take my eyes off them as the slowly amble onward. Perhaps they are following a path unseen from where I stand or the ridge itself but either way, they are angling to my left. If they keep this direction of travel, it will place them in an area with no real obstructions between us, and better yet, they will be broadside to me.

They do. They are. I’m ready.

I select the lead doe.

One shot.

It’s 8:55 AM.