Saturday, September 11, 2010

Roads and Steps

"Wait," my wife says. "Don't move." She's sitting opposite from me at the kitchen table. Gee whiz, I'm thinking. What now?

The last time I sat in front of this monitor, I shut the system down, turned off the main on/off button under my work table, unplugged the telephone line and went to bed. Thunderstorms (again). During the night, high winds blow the chimney cap onto the deck. "What was that thud?" Dawn asks me. I'm groggy from another interrupted night of sleep. Mandy Mae is hiding under the bed. The cat needs solace, so he nestles in between my outstretched legs. ""I heard someone yell help me," Dawn says. It wasn't until I bumped into the cop at the library in the small village six miles away that I put things together. He tells me of responding to a call at the neighbors. "They got some sort of home there," he says with a mixture of bewilderment and dismay. " A girl went berserk."

I slowly turn around. There's a hummingbird at the kitchen window. It's not unusual for a curious hummingbird to peek in our kitchen. On occasion, we'll hear a small thud when one of them bumps off the window. Carelessly playing a game of who can get higher, two males fight for dominance forgetting the house inches away from their nectar feeders. The hummingbird's beak is caught in the nylon mesh of the window screen. My first thought isn't the hole it will make in my new window screen, but how I'm going to free him from his trap without hurting him. I start for the back door thinking I'll cover him with a small towel and work his beak free when he nudges and frees himself. What a relief.

Two weeks. That's how long it's been since I've had more than three minutes of time to sit in the garage with the "kids" and dream up another project or plan a canning escapade. In between holding a board or a 10 foot piece of siding, there are the inevitable design questions. "How do you want me to finish off this window?" Johann will ask. "See that ceiling," he'll point. "It's bowed. There's an inch and a half difference between the middle and the left side." The picture at top shows the outside of the rear of the "breezeway". In former times it was an area where I'd do messy food prep before canning or freezing. Now it's a nicely enclosed small 10X10 foot room between the house and garage.

Johann burns through a cement saw in less than three hours cutting small pieces of cement siding. The former owner of this converted schoolhouse sided the old, white clapboard boards with durable cement siding. I place an order with the local lumber yard for more 12 long siding boards to supplement pieces of siding that were left behind by the remolding crew hired by the last owner.

I go back and forth with the man who sold me the saw blade arguing about the defective blade. He admits that the money spent on the blade is basically wasted but says, "There's no guarantee on saw blades." he responds when I ask him to return it to the manufacturer. Finally, I bluntly tell him that his attitude affects my confidence in future dealings with the lumber yard. Seeing my resolve and that I'll halt any future purchases with them, he relents and offers to refund my money. "But I won't sell you another blade," he says.

I go to the agri-center and purchase a diamond tipped saw blade big John from the agri-center recommends for the job. It's almost twice as expensive. Johann remarks that it cuts much better than the cheap blade. Coincidence has it that I follow through with my promise not to do business with the former lumber yard. I toss the blade in the trash instead of returning it. I'm too busy to make the 40 minute round trip returning the blade would require. In the meantime, we find log siding for the interior of the breezeway from an Amish lumber yard. It solves three different design and aesthetic problems. Instead of Johann covered in cement dust when he makes multiple cuts in cement siding as originally planned for the interior, we have the warm glow of wood, ease of installation and the feel of a 10X10 log cabin.

Dreams of a log cabin greenhouse/summer kitchen fill my empty head. The entire project is predicated on making a better confined space for the dog. The Jerry-rigged old windows I erected as a barrier to keep the dog in a backyard pen blossomed into a major expense and learning experience. In the last two hours Johann spends on finishing touches, he adds a new entrance way to Mandy dog house complete with an additional weather barrier/new roof. Mandy has the option of sleeping in our "cabin" on her dog bed in a well insulated space or romping in her spacious backyard and snoozing in a cozy doghouse while protecting us from inruders. Who says it isn't a dog's life?

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