Bathing with Crawdads

Basking in the afternoon sun.

July 24 to 26, 2020

This was the weekend to prime the second floor. I was nervous about it. I don’t like heights. At all. It took four months before I even felt comfortable standing on the third rung of my six-foot ladder. And the top of the second floor was 15-feet above the ground. That’s scary high! But I needed to do it. I had no one but me.

I brought my new 20-foot extension ladder, as well as the shorter stepladder. I feel more comfortable on stepladders. I would use the extension ladder only when I had to, and use the stepladder for everything else.

Saturday, July 25

My six-foot stepladder is tall enough!I got a late start heading out of the city, so I waited until Saturday morning before beginning prep work. The upstairs windows are just sheets of plexiglass screwed directly into the OSB. I removed these, covered them with plastic, and reattached them. The plastic would protect the plexiglass, and the plexiglass would ensure the plastic stayed in place. The best part, I could leave the windows this way for a couple of weeks, until I finished painting. No more prep work for the windows!

I next removed the furring strips securing the plastic sheeting and then removed the sheeting. The exterior was almost ready for priming! But, I was concerned about getting paint on my brand new shiny roof. I like the way the roof looks, and I don’t want to mess it up or make it ugly. It had occurred to me I could slide thin sheets of cardboard, such as that used for soda cartons, between the metal and the top of the wall. The cardboard would be stiff enough that it wouldn’t droop onto the freshly painted surface or stick to the roller. I had a dozen empty soda cartons. It was a perfect solution!

The last thing–covering the front deck and back entry pavers with plastic to protect from paint splatters. Fortunately, I had lots of plastic sheeting for this! I secured it with duct tape to keep it from sliding around. Because the weather is supposed to be good at least through next weekend, I could leave it in place.

The last, last thing–figuring out how to reach the top of the cabin with my paint roller.

South back wallI freely admit–standing on an extension ladder on the edge of a 40-foot bluff was terrifying.

I looked around for something to which to secure the ladder. In case I lost my balance, I needed to keep that ladder from going over the bluff. It’s a straight drop down into the river, and there’s no way I could survive that.

There was nothing in the cabin to which I could secure the ladder. The best I could do was the cedar tree to the south of the cabin and the vine maple to the north.

It didn’t make me feel any less nervous. Especially since I knew the front deck wasn’t a wide enough area for the extension ladder. It would have to stand on the narrow ledge between the deck and the edge of the bluff.

I wasn’t sure I was willing to do that. Maybe I could just use the stepladder and paint as high as I could and call it good enough. My six-foot roller handle would help.

South back wall after installing top wall pieceI grabbed the stepladder and set it up on the deck. The base took up the entire width of the deck, so if I used it, I would have to be careful taking last last step to ensure I didn’t accidentally step off over the bluff.

But, it was on firm, level ground and safer than the extension ladder.

I picked up the roller and climbed the first three rungs of the ladder. I tried not to look down or behind me. Holding the ladder firmly with one hand, I raised the roller above my head.

It reached the top of the wall! Just barely, but that’s all I needed. I wouldn’t need the extension ladder, after all!

What a relief!

I poured primer in the tray and started rolling it on. Although the prep work had taken three hours, priming the second floor took less than an hour, and I was done by early afternoon.

Back wall slope templateWhat to do next? I had planned to wait an hour and add the second coat, but the wall around the back door was still unfinished. I needed to finish it. Today was a good day for it. I’d already cut the two sidewalls. I only needed to remove the two temporaries and screw the two permanent pieces in place. It would leave a gap above the door, but, I had time and wood and a saw.

And then there was the gap between the top of the wall and the sloped roof. And again, I had time and wood and a saw. And, I had some old conference poster board upstairs. I could use that to make a template, ensuring the piece would fit right. No mistakes as I did with the two upstairs.

I got right to work. The new permanent wall pieces fit great. The old ones had been too narrow, leaving most of the studs exposed, and one was too short. After installing the new ones, I measured the gap above the door and cut a piece to fit from a scrap of OSB. Everything lined up nicely and looked good. The only thing left was the bit between the wall and the roof.

Back wall slope pieceI took measurements and cut a piece to fit from the poster board. The high end needed to be notched to fit around the beam supporting the lower roof. With that done, the template fit nicely in place. Perfect!

I tested the template on the south wall, and it fit well there, too. I cut two and screwed them in place. They looked awesome and fit perfectly! I was so happy to finally have that done. A coat of primer, and it was time to call it a day. I had worked nine hours straight, with a 15-minute break for lunch. But, it felt good. I finally finished a couple of tasks I’d been avoiding for months!

Sunday, June 26

I got up early, determined to roll on the second coat so I could spend the rest of the day relaxing. The weather forecast called for low 80s, and I really wanted to spend some time at the river.

Everything was still in place from yesterday, so no prep work today. Priming didn’t take long. As soon as I was done, I cleaned up and put away all my tools, leaving nothing left to do, but relax. I loaded up a bag with a towel, conditioner, soap, and a change of clothes, and headed down to the river.

Crawdad!The river was beautiful and peaceful. The mid-day sun flooded the river gorge with light and warmth. Sunlight sparkled off the crystal-clear water. I dunked my head in the icy cold water, letting my hair float with the current. When I raised my head, I caught a movement in the water along the shore. I leaned forward a bit, and saw a tiny creature crawling in the rocks.

A crawdad!

This was the first crawdad I’ve seen here. It was tiny, hardly bigger than an inch. Maybe an inch and a half. There were others, too. All were smaller than this little one. I wandered carefully around in the river, mindful of where I stepped. I didn’t want to crush any of my little buddies.

I headed south, following the sun. I wanted to check out the area of the bank below my cabin. This part of the river is considerably deeper; at least four feet in places. I had only one pair of shorts when I was here last weekend, and I didn’t explore this area because I didn’t want to get them wet! This time, however, I brought swim shorts. In fact, I’d been wearing them all weekend. They were kind of nasty after all that work, so a good dip in the river was exactly what they needed.

Bowl beneath the waterfallI stepped around a dead tree sticking out into the river. I don’t know why, but rotting, water-logged trees and branches creep me out. I don’t like touching them. And this one was kind of blocking my access to the other side. I’d like to chop it up with my chainsaw, but it’s under the water.

The river bed dropped several feet directly on the other side of the dead tree. I stepped down carefully, mindful of big rocks and things in the riverbed. The bluff blocked the sun, making it difficult to see just exactly what was down there. I don’t mind stepping on big rocks, but I did not want to step on any sunken logs. It kind of creeped me out, so I wandered back up to the shallower side. The bluff didn’t block the sun here; I could see what I was stepping on.

I wandered a little further south until I was directly across from the waterfall. The creek’s been dry for several weeks now, so no water is falling now. Sunning on the beachIt had carved out a deep bowl in the riverbed, exposing bedrock. Boulders lined the bottom of the bowl. Even with the boulders, the water was probably six feet deep. It would be a great place for taking a bath.

I continued wandering south. I had not explored this far downstream before. This part of the river is considerably deeper than my part. The water came up to my waist even on the shallow side. There were lots of dead trees and branches lining the bank here, creeping me out. The only way I could get around them was to walk into deeper water. Or swim. This would make a great swimming hole. But I had my phone with me, and the waterproof case was broken.

I headed back to my beach and lay on the warm rocks for a while until it was time to go home. It was a good day. I was happy with the work I’d done this weekend, and happier still that I got a chance to enjoy my river. I love being here.

My cabin is almost ready for paint!
My cabin is almost ready for paint!