Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Saga of the Deck

Go get a coffee, and maybe a snack.... this is a week's post in one!

Building Day One

Tuesday and day one of the deck build. Ian and Zak are able workmen who can be counted on to do an excellent job, and this project gives them a bit of brotherly bonding time, which they haven't had in a while. While the day began heavily overcast and even a bit showery, the clouds have thinned and we now have a sort of anemic (but much appreciated) sunshine pouring down through the willow branches.

The building plan is for a 24' x 6' foot space, of which 22' will be be enclosed (with mesh) and covered with a clear fibreglass roof. It will include a storage and work counter at the back, which I will be able to use as a seed-starting area next spring. This makes me very happy.

After clearing the area of garden shed, the cat's "room", and the various bits and pieces of gardening stuff I had stacked there, Ian climbed up on the roof and the two of them removed the trailer's retractable awning. At some point in its life it must have been left up in a windstorm because the support beams are torqued to the point that it takes four people to stow the awning after it has been extended. And after 15 years the fabric was beginning to rot along the roofline anyway. Later edit: When we got it off Ian checked it over and the arms weren't torqued, nothing was bent. Our problem getting it to roll back up must have been because we are not level, front to back or side to side. The fabric is in excellent shape except for the four inch strip where it has been exposed to the sun. It can be trimmed and reattached. So off to Freecycle, rather than to the dump! Yay!

Then the cutting and assembly began. They work pretty fast and in a couple of hours they had assembled two of the three sections of the floor support. A break for lunch and soon they will be back at it.

I moved the greenhouse out to the lawn this morning, laid it on its back and loaded it up. It was only 4 C (39 F) when I put the plants out, but with the light on it was soon 10 C ( 50 F). After an hour we were able to unplug the light and the temperature stayed about 20 C (68 f) most of the day.

The advantage of the greenhouse being where it is now is that it gets unobstructed sun all day long. The disadvantage is that it's a lot farther to carry all the flats and containers. It takes a half dozen trips to ferry all of them back and forth and as seedlings are transplanted into individual pots this is only going to get worse, not better. If it would only warm up I could just cover the whole thing at night, leaving the light on, and it would be warm enough. As is everything would freeze.

The seedlings I transplanted yesterday are perky as a 1950's car hop, so being moved from one pot to another didn't seem to affect them at all. I'd like to transplant more seedlings but it will have to wait for another day. Some of the tomatoes are growing like there's no tomorrow and some are sitting, apparently thinking about reducing diets, or becoming sticks, or something other than growing secondary leaves.

I fear my shade garden is going to suffer some unavoidable trampling during this construction process. The edge of the deck comes right up to the edge of the garden, in fact over by two inches at one spot. I may have to replant a few things, and move some things. I will have to put stepping stones in to ensure I have access to work in the plants and to water, without stomping on the plants. But as a tradeoff I will get a few feet of usable sunny space in front, which I have plans for.

Building Day Two

Mostly a shopping day, since we had planned to buy materials ahead of time but both got sick and were unable to get a darned thing, well, we did buy one roll of mesh covering, some comfort that is. I had a doctor's appt today in Penticton so we managed to kill two birds with one stone. Ian shopped for materials while I sat in the doctor's office. But despite distractions the fellas finished the floor, built the posts, (2 x 4s laminated and screwed together) and put up the posts and girder for the roof support at the trailer.

Building Day Three

The trees are throwing bud covers down and the birds "christened" the deck between yesterday and this morning, so we had to do a thorough sweeping, then Zak painted the first coat of the bright blue I chose for the floor, and when it was dry I painted half of the second coat and he finished it off. All right, I know that blue is an eye-popper but when you go for seven weeks without any sun you want something that looks like a blue sky. I may get funky and paint clouds on it. Would that be cool or what? Zak says it would confuse the birds, and they might poop up instead of down. That would be helpful.

Now we wait for Ian to return from shopping (again). They didn't have the fibreglass roof panels or screen door we needed in Summerland, so a trip to Penticton was called for. He was climbing today at Skaha anyway, so again it's two birds, one stone.

I am hoping they can get the roof supports built and up tonight, as it is supposed to rain tomorrow. This is taking longer than any of us expected, with all the running around to buy materials. I can't do much to help and it's killing me. I love building things, and it's hard to sit and watch someone else have all the fun! I look out the window at our big strong sons and am thankful we have them to help us.

I just brought in my flats of seedlings and note with dismay that some of the tomato seedlings have a purple cast to the stems and leaves. This is a sign of a cold and shivering tomato. Our high was supposed to be 20 C (68 F) today, but I don't think it ever got above 14 C (57 F) here by the lake. The wind was so cold it sucked the warmth right out of the sun. I'll have to pull the greenhouse closer tomorrow morning, so I can plug in the lights because tomorrow is supposed to be rainy and cool.

And since this is just turning into a massive post anyway I might as well report that I raked the shade garden again today, trying to clean away leaves I dared not touch when the plants were newly exposed to sun and air after being buried in leaves all winter.

I find that five of my six succulents are up and doing very well, the toad lily is emerging, the bearberry is as good as it was when it was planted last spring, the same size even! The deadnettle plants are good, the coral bells is ragged but apparently alive. So far no new leaves. The astilbes and mums haven't done much more than they'd done two weeks ago, but the mums have teeny flower buds on them.

No hosta yet, and the Japanese painted ferns seem to have escaped and gone back to Japan. Some of the thymes survived, but only about 1/4 of them. The tri-coloured sage plants seem to have all croaked, and the alyssum, which usually survives the winter here, has flown away to teeny flower heaven. The heathers are goners, the lavender has one or two living shoots per plant. All in all a very poor record, since many of these plants are supposed to survive a full two to three zones colder than our 5a.

Zak brought a lovely book on Japanese gardens with him, and since I very much like the look of a dry garden with raked gravel I am tempted to not pour more time and money shoehorning perennials between the tree roots, and bring in a load of gravel instead. I might move some of the plants so that they are grouped together in "islands" and surround them with fine gravel. I know a raked garden would be a nightmare to keep in that space. Tons of flowers and leaves cascade from the trees above and around us, almost year round, but fiddle, at least gravel won't die in a cold snap.

Building Day Four

Four am. Salvador says it is time to go for walkies. I tell Salvador to go to sleep before I throttle him.

Seven am. It is raining. Need I say more? (You know I will.) My beautiful blue floor is covered in muddy footprints and debris from the Mayday trees. The wind is biting and blowing hard. Did I mention that it is raining?

Eight am. The roof joists begin to go up. This is good. This is progress. Uh-oh. The wiggle strips which stabilize the fibreglass covering do not match the corrugations of the fibreglass roof sheets. We also still need a screen door. We need more netting, stair risers, screws, vinyl strips, lumber. Ian climbs into his truck and off he goes, Zak continues to hang roof joists. Uh-oh, Zak has run out of lumber for roof joists. Math is apparently not my strong point but I used to be able to count to 12.

My neigbour Ruth calls me over to show me their new compost bin, and says I can put our compostables in it as well. That's very nice of her.

Noon, and Ian is back with a screen door, appropriate-size and type of wiggle board for the roof panels, another roll of mesh, another box of deck screws. The local builder's supply had only one kind of wiggle board. How were we to know it wouldn't match our panels? I am reminded of the Tinpalace and cabinet hardware that we couldn't find appropriate sized bolts for. Aiiiiii....

This is not the ideal day to put a roof on. It's even too cold for me to stay outside and stupidvise, for which I'm sure Ian and Zak are grateful. Several neighbours have come by to have a look and chat with the boys. Everyone walks up the middle of the garden and stomps the bejabbers out of my plants. I don't know whether to go berserk and run screaming out the door with a butter knife or become resigned to having everything crushed into the ground. I don't think I could run right now, so I better do the resigned thing.

Hey! A ray of sunshine hits my keyboard. Oh, gone already. That was quick. Sigh... I hope this is not going to be one of those years without a summer. Ask me in July, when it's usually (40 C) 104 F. If it's still cold then I'm really gonna be aggravated.

I hear the wood chipper going and Zak just trimmed a bunch of tree limbs which were hanging down so far they would touch the deck roof, so I think I will go carry limbs to the chipper. Better than sitting here twitching like I have my tongue in a light socket. And there's another feeble stab of sunlight. It would be nice if the clouds would clear off and we could have a little warmth. .

Time to break for lunch, and to go buy more materials. I don't think planning ahead is one of my strengths anyway, but as is usual the bits and bobs we bought don't match, fit together or go as far as we thought they would. But the guys have been working hard in the cold wind and need a chance to stop and get warm, fed and to rest a few minutes. Oh, and to shop. sigh...

But I am pleased that I can see the trees through the roof panels. I really enjoy being able to watch the trees, and I figured I wouldn't be able to see them once the roof went up, but it's clear!

Afternoon and rain, off and on. A storm was predicted, with high winds and lightening, and we saw it sweep across the lake just as Ian was putting the last roof panel on. We had one or two big gusts of wind, but nothing major. Most of it went right over the top of us.

So the roof panels are on, and Zak framed and hung the door, installed the railings and hung one tier of the mesh we'll use to contain the cat. Oh, and he built a nice new set of stairs, larger and more stable than the fold-out trailer stairs. Lots of work accomplished, but still some work to be done. The rest of the mesh has to go up, the door needs a layer of mesh, and the storage box at the back needs to be built. And numerous things need painting. But these are tasks I can mostly do myself, except for the storage box, which Ian says he will do on Sunday morning.

It's going to be very nice when it's all finished. There's a spot for the beautiful cobalt blue planter I bought, and I think I'll plant flowering beans at the corner, where there is sun for a good portion of the day.

Building Day Five

It's a cold, grey morning, the temperature is just above freezing and it is windy. Zak left for home at 7:30 am, and now at 9:00 Ian is off for a day of climbing. He's going to need a holiday to recover from his holiday! At least Tony is up and out of bed, for the first time in a week. He's been pretty sick with this virus.

Later in the day, once I am physically conscious, I will go out and measure the space for the storage until, and hopefully mark off some lumber for Ian to cut once he returns from climbing. It's too cold to put the seedlings out yet, I didn't plan on February weather in mid-April. Hopefully it will warm up in a bit.

By 11:00 the two trouble lights had warmed the greenhouse to 12 C (53 F) so Tony and I put the plants out. It's 11 C (51 F) outside now (at almost 3:00 pm, and the temp in the greenhouse is 25 C (77 F). That's more agreeable to young plants. But I am just pooped. We did the unusual, turned on the TV/DVD during the day and watched an hour of old Red Dwarf episodes. We both needed something to distract us from our panic about how much there is left to do before we can actually use the deck, and how much this virus has taken us both down. I still have to go out, measure and mark lumber, but I'm working up to it slowly. Argghhhh....

By day's end we'd managed to pick up the assorted construction debris, loose hardware, screws and tools, clear up some of the mess in the back and sweep the deck free of sawdust and the stuff that's falling off the Mayday trees. My neighbour Ruth calls them the "Trees from Hell" as they shed something from early April to December, first catkins, then they bloom and the flowers shed in huge drifts, next the purple (inedible) berries drop, then they shed tons and tons of leaves. Ahhhh... trees, gotta love 'em. The real problem with these is that the water table is too high for them and they are not very healthy. They are dying one by one and are being replaced with corkscrew willows, which are very handsome and love the high water table.

Building Day Six

Ian was up early, fixed all of us a nice brekkie, and by 8:00 am was on the deck working. He cut the pieces we'd measured the day before, plus some we hadn't, and built a terrific storage unit/work bench at the back end of the deck. Then it was time to pick up tools and leftover lumber, tidy up, pack up and at noon he headed out for home. He has to work tomorrow. Poor him. We sort of collapsed in a heap. This is the time company usually shows up, when the floors are unswept, stuff is thrown/stacked all over, there's a sack of garbage sitting in the middle of the floor and we just want to crawl into bed and stay there for 24 hours with the covers pulled over our heads.

We still need to 1) paint 2) hang mesh 3) put a latch on the outside of the door and find some way to dispose of all the spare cuts of plywood and lumber, but after that's done it's a wrap! It still looks a bit of a mess but will be really nice once everything is painted and finished off. We are certainly looking forward to using it! And bonus, just as we were wondering what to do with Sal's old enclosure some neighbours down the row asked about it. They are getting a new cat and could use it. Hooray! They will come and haul it off, so we don't have to tear it apart and get rid of the pieces.

1 comment:

newwaytowrite said...

I guess the boys were repaying your labour with their labour. An early Mother's day bonus.


I look forward to pictures of the totally finished product.

The Sal must of been right displaced the last while.

Glad you and Tony are mended.