104: Poll!

Although analytics show that we're closing in on 12,000 page hits soon, with a large recent increase, I'm unsure what I'm going to do about this blog when the cabin is finished.  I've enjoyed using it as a platform for other ruminations and topics, evident in these posts (there are more, these are samples):
about NOC
about Scotch-Irish (see comments)
about naming stuff
about Edward Abbey
about Eustace Conway
about boats
about logging roads
about Fall color
about existentialism
about loss, and blessings
about hiking with the family
about being a dad
about my Dad's AT hike
about Trillium and more Trillium
about water
about bad luck

So, obviously, I enjoy digressing from cabin-building.  However, the cabin, its construction, and its use has and will continue to serve as a thread to provide continuity and direction for this blog.

103: Checking out the new floor!

Added a wood bolt to secure the door and drilled the jamb to receive it

Got a hammer?
Yup.  Gotta hammer!

102: Progress report and remaining steps

Late last night, again using a headlamp, I almost finished the outside staining.  I ran out of stain with just a small amount of exterior ceiling left, on the back side.  Hopefully, I can buy just a quart to finish the job.

Early this morning, I finished the floor.

I decided what to do about the too-shiny interior walls.  I'll simply brush over them with steel wool and then add a coat of satin poly over the gloss.  I understand that some cabinet makers do exactly that -- they'll use undercoats of clear gloss to avoid over-darkening the wood, and then finish with satin.  I think it'll work well.

This is too shiny.  It's nice during the day, but any kind of flashlight reflects blindingly...  Fortunately, there's an easy solution!

Next, I'll frame screens for the four windows (two large lower ones and two small loft openings).  I'll use an old brace drill that belonged to my grandad to create a T-dowel door latch.  I'll build two benches that can be pushed together to create a full-size bed, using a leaf board that'll run the length and sit between them.

Look for pictures soon!

101: Thoughts on Polyurethane

I was a bit unhappy the other night, at midnight, the next evening after I took the pictures in chapter 100.  I had worked late into the night on the inside walls.  A fresh coat of high-gloss polyurethane looks wet, and cold -- under the glare of a white, LED headlamp, all the warmth seemed to have deserted the interior -- the walls looked shiny and reflected light into my eyes.  What had I done!  Although I still regret not using a flat, clear stain on the interior walls, the poly did soak in and dull as it dried, and I like it well enough, now.  My original intent had been to brighten up the space, and I guess it does that.  I may well stick to the single coat on the walls though, or even apply a semi-gloss over it.

The floor now has two coats of semi-gloss, high traffic floor poly.  I'll try to apply a third coat, although this would probably do.  You be the judge!  Here are some pictures:






100: Staining at night by headlamp

Whenever I'm in a particularly onerous or arduous phase of this project, I seem to go into hyperdrive to get it over with.  Plus, I can smell the barn.  So this evening, after putting the boys to bed, I loaded up and headed to the cabin sporting a headlamp.  I actually like staining fresh, dry wood, but I despise doing it overhead, up on a ladder.  The paint suit I wear will never be the same, and I'll smell like oil-based stain for days.  But, the circumstances give me an excuse for runs and lots of splashes on the chinking.  It's an imperfect structure anyhow, to say the least.  Here are some pictures taken with flash:

Natural semi-transparent Cabot stain looks sort of golden under a flash, or in a sun beam...
On the left, see the unstained back wall.  Unfortunately, it's the high-up wall...

The right side wall was easiest -- no windows!

99: Photos of dinner guests, inspecting the cabin...

I finished staining the front today.  Here's the big question -- should I take the stain inside as well, or go with a clear polyurethane in there?  If I go clear, then we'll keep the nice striped contrast between the logs and wood strips.  If I stain it, then everything will match.  If I use clear poly inside, everything will be lighter and feel bigger.  If I stain it, it'll be very warm.   What to do?

Here, our friends the Buddens and Risto Atanasov came to dinner last evening.  Risto is an extraordinary chef -- he brought a large crock pot full of spicy, homemade tomato-basil soup and a massive amount of sublimely-wonderful moussaka, prepared the way his mother cooks it back home in Macedonia.  Mark Budden brought a huge plate of sushi rolls hat he spent most of the morning preparing.  We ate well.

Here they are, inspecting the cabin...

Look up!

Aspen peers out the screen vent window...

Emma peers out the window I'm about to screen.

Abel and Aspen and Emma and Mark

Aspen and Emma check out the loft.
Angus brought a crust of bread from dinner...


I handed Risto the big hammer, and Abel joined him for a picture.  Look carefully at the background to see Mark peering out the door. 

98: More Trillium

The boys are learning to spot Trillium. So far, the only thing I've pointed out to the boys has been poison ivy. But, following last weekend's "Trillium walk," they're zealous about finding more of it and showing us. Early this morning, around 8:00am, we hiked one of the trails on our property.

Angus: "Me Tillum! Look Daddy!"

Abel, authoritatively: "You've got a good eye, Baby."

Angus: "Me find Tillum!"

It was a large Wake Robin specimen, on the trail that leads to their treehouse and rock climbing wall.  One thinks of small boys as being destructive, in a careless if not intentional way.  Not my boys.  Those sticks were used as careful pointers.  Abel, copied by Angus, would use his stick to gently lift leaves to discover the fragile blossoms, hanging beneath their shelter.

97: Second floor!

Ralph sold me enough rough-sawn 1x12 to build a second floor, so I nailed it down perpendicular to the existing one, after first laying felt paper to eliminate drafts and serve as a vapor barrier. Then, I tried a first coat of semi-transparent, oil-based stain on the exterior.

 Notice the difference between the right side and the left side on this first picture:

I'll stain the rest of it, and stain the floor next!

Very soon, I'll build screen windows and finish caulking and staining the cabin.  Add a wooden loft ladder, battery lanterns, a door latch, a storage box/seat/bed, and some simple landscaping, and it'll be ready to go!

I'm thinking about camping with the boys in the cabin before the summer gets hot (of course, we only get about 4 or 5 weeks of over-80 degree weather up at our shady holler elevation).

96: Pain in the neck!

On February 24th, I landed a perfect boof off the launching pad in Soc Em Dog, a rapid on the Chattooga.  But I landed on my upstream edge (the Burn is an edgy boat), resulting in an almost inevitable flip but a roll I expected to control effortlessly.  Except.  If you watch carefully, you'll actually see my roll interrupted by the tucked side of my head smacking a rock -- the stern visually rises out of the water while I'm upside down:

video

Nailing your head on a rock can result in trauma.  Almost a month later, when I still could not rotate my head, I had to don this neck brace for several weeks.


Low down in Chapter 16, I mention the cabin serves as a distraction from whitewater, that it may help prevent injury.  Maybe it has, if this happened during a one of the few paddling trips I take nowadays...

For those of you following the blog, I was deep into chinking during the weeks I was incapacitated and then in the brace.  I almost fell off the ladder only once!

95: Water, everywhere

Our cove in the holler is wet.  Water springs forth everywhere.  Right above and next to the house, the very headwaters of Little Savannah Creek bubble up in a concave place and descend at several gallons per minute even during a drought just ten feet beneath my deck.  With many lower tributaries, that creek feeds a whole farm valley before it joins East Fork and main Savannah Creek and then the Tuckaseegee River.  I've seen it 3 feet deep next to the house, during a hurricane. Kill ya.

In 2005, I situated the end of a 1-inch black plastic spring tube near the spring, above the house. I buried the length and threaded it onto a 10-foot length of galvanized pipe.  For several years, it shot straight up several feet and landed in a small pond before draining back into its natural bed.  When Abel was a baby, I left him tied into a bouncy seat in my earshot and rigged all this up in the dark using a headlamp, while Sloan taught a night class in Asheville during the fall of 2005.


Every few days it slows, and I decouple a hose to release an unlucky crawdad.  More recently, I attached a hose and send the water all the way around the house and tied it up to a post, from where it splashes into steel buckets in our garden and makes steady wet noise beneath our bedroom window.  Pee before you go to sleep -- the sound is suggestive.  It's useful for watering and for washing the crap off of chicken eggs, but mostly we like the pleasantly relentless ambience of falling water.

The other creek is larger, running over a 2-foot falls created by a tree root and passing under our road through a culvert just as you turn up to the house.  When it rains hard, this creek sounds like a river for days.  The boys like to play in the small wetland it feeds next to the lower driveway.

Their confluence is on our property, down low below the house, and I've never scrambled down there.  It's down a steep, rhododendron and laurel-choked ravine below the house.  If I plumbed both creeks and fed them together into a Y valve at the bottom, I'm sure I'd have enough head to drive a micro-hydro station.  It's tempting.  Doubt I'd generate enough to sell back to Duke's grid, though, and it'd be an expensive set-up.

We have other seeps.  One runs alongside our road during all but the driest months.  In 2004, I widened the driveway and buried french drains 6-feet down under number 57 rock -- same-size washed stone devoid of fine sediment that drains very well.  The main artery drops 2 or 3 gallons each minute into the creek where it daylights.  This used to surface in the driveway.

Over at our nearby other property, where the cabin sits, we have no water because it's on a ridge.  But I ran another black spring line up a steep acre of our property and surreptitiously across several feet of unbuildable private property to the downhill fill side of a gravel road up above.  There, I attached it to a cobbled-together funnel C-clamped to the downhill end of an 18-inch culvert through which water always runs.  This water crosses about 8 feet of my absentee neighbor's property and then goes underground, and through my property.  This water splashes from the end of its transport device into a 20-gallon metal washbasin, or into a 55-gallon drum when I want to top it off.  Its nice to have water there -- I used it to mix concrete to chink the cabin, to wash tools, and for safety when we light the fire pit.

Windows open, water flows; inside the house the outside splashes against our walls.  The noise is constant, a companion, a backdrop to all conversations, music, thoughts, and sleep.  It's pretty up here, and because of our water, you can close your eyes and still see the beauty.

94: Mother's Day Hammer Session

This Mother's Day morning, after the boys made a perfect cappuccino for Sloan, and after the presentation of their splendid water-painting card and painted plaster flowers, I gave mommy a real gift -- I took both boys to the cabin to hammer in the heads of the sharp, slightly protruding finish nails along the lengths of trim that yesterday I tacked over the ugly spray foam that insulates the back side of the exterior chinking.  She stayed on the couch and read a book.

Unhappy with the look of Great Stuff spray foam, but pleased with its ability to seal any small holes and gaps in the concrete chinking while insulating gaps, I've been perplexed about what to do.  Finally, I settled on wood.  Ralph Morgan sold me some .5 inch thick 1x4 planks.  Some, I ripped with a table saw.  A finish carpenter I'm not, but it lends a bright, pleasing, smooth look to the the interior, and it covers up all the foam.  After treating it with Penetreat, I'll coat it with a golden "Natural" semi-transparent, oil-based stain, along with the logs and the second floor.








93: Moving onward! Wood chinking for the inside!

Today, I went to Ralph's sawmill and picked up a bunch of thin pine slats.  Tomorrow, I'm going to start nailing them over the gaps full of foam insulation on the inside.  It'll look nice when done.  Also, I'll finish framing windows, and I might get up some screen.  Next week, I'll pick up some pretty pine floor boards for the second floor.  Look for pictures tomorrow evening!

92: Trillium trail, below the cabin

The cabin sits on a spur ridge, down a foot trail from our cleared picnic plateau with a 100-degree wintertime view of the surrounding flanks of Savannah Ridge, the overhead heights of Wolf, Beck, and Panther Knobs, and the distant Plott Balsams.  Just a hundred or so feet higher up the headwall ridge behind us, as you climb onto the upper reaches of our cold holler, you can see Clingman's Dome and Newfound Gap, in the Smokies.  I built four intersecting foot trails -- one down the ridge to and below the cabin, two flanking it on the contour of the ridge, and one diagonal shortcut.  

The deepest darkest trail, the one that comes up a deeply-wooded, protected hollow in the holler, is chock full of Trillium.  A type of Lilly, it grows about a foot high.  Its three wide leaves protect a pretty, single flower.  Most of ours are white and stand up straight in the middle.  But a good many are purple and delicately hang, protected, beneath the leaves on the underside.  Sloan hears these are called "Wake Robins."  There's a Wake Robin Road on the other side of our side-ridge.  Obviously, our North-facing slopes and those nearby make a good home for these particular native wildflowers.  

This evening, we all took a walk and examined more than a few Flame Azaleas and Wake Robin Trillium while enjoying a 45 degree temperature in late May (notice the jackets).





91: Questions

I've received almost no comments lately.  I'd love to hear some questions or get some advice from readers.  Here -- should I put the second floor down diagonally?  I think so but haven't decided.

How should I furnish the cabin?  The plastic adirondack chairs need to go.  Any other ideas?

Expect posts soon on exciting subjects, like stain.

And I'll post pictures again very soon!

90: Trucks and tools

Building a cabin on a remote site on property we own that's not close to a house or workshop has been challenging. There's no electricity, but my mission to use hand tools mitigates that disadvantage. Constantly transporting tools, hardware, bags of mortar mix, rough-sawn lumber, and logs has been a big, "hidden" component of the project. A time and energy suck. During certain phases, especially after we raised the roof, I'd leave certain tools and materials on-site. Never good steel. A four-wheel-drive truck made this possible, although I still had to drag or carry stuff down a steep trail to the actual site. Now, there's nothing there -- everything goes back and forth in the truck. Here in the picture, in January, Abel wishfully thinks that's how he'll ride home.

89: Milestone -- Chinking complete!!!

Finished the exterior chinking this morning!  Hopefully, I'll finish boxing in the triangular windows today.  Then, I'll caulk the checks, scrub chinking residue off of the log walls with a wire brush, stain the whole thing inside and out, screen in the main windows, throw down a second floor, build a wooden ladder, create a door latch system, rip slivers of wood to cover the inside chinking, and landscape.  Guess I'll be tinkering all summer...

About Me

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I use this blog to chronicle certain aspects of my life near the Smokies. I'm building a cabin. I kayak. Sometimes I bike.