One Man's Firewood
With Thanksgiving Day only two-and-a-half weeks away, we are gearing up for a rousing day of family and food. Annie’s three brothers are all going to be here, nephews and nieces will be in attendance and there are going to be babies!
The last time we gathered in similar fashion, was 2010, only weeks after the Giants’ first world series win in the San Francisco era. After more than three weeks of fiendish weather, the grand day itself dawned crystal clear and gorgeous, or as gorgeous as sub-freezing weather could be.
This was the year I added on to the house, building a two-story, ten by twenty foot addition, a project I began the first day of November. The harvest and all of the accompanying work now completed, I had poured a perimeter foundation, bay window and all, and commenced to constructing.
Clearly, I was wrong about that, because the November in question was brutal in its intensity, and it was unrelenting. Hey, beginning a major reconstruction project at the start of the winter months is never the best idea, but when it is the only time available, one rolls with the punches, which this year, included vast quantities of snow.
I put the siding on in 26 degree weather, with a steady diet of snow and ice. I wore multiple layers of clothing, and was not fazed by the cold in any way, shape or form. I worked methodically, without trying to break any speed records, while I tried to keep the rest of the house above the freezing level.
Our wood supply was wet, paper was at a premium, and I was struggling to keep it all going. Obviously, the sooner the addition was weather-tight, the sooner I could get a handle on keeping the place habitable. Did I feel I had taken on too much?
No way. I was thriving because the project had been years in the planning, and it would be such an upgrade to our house. Annie wanted to use the upstairs room as a sewing center, so that she could have multiple stations where sewing could be done.
So I plowed on, no pun intended, and worked through the cold and snow to get it weather-tight for Thanksgiving. The goal was to be able to eat Thanksgiving dinner in the new addition, without getting frostbite. Supplementing the wood stove(s) was a twenty-gallon propane canister, heating element going full blast, which helped immensely.
I wanted the bottom story to serve as a dining room, primarily, and living room, with space for a sofa and the television. On top of it all was the bay window, an extravagance, certainly, but one with minimal cost and maximum effect.
Just after the new year, once the upstairs was all framed and roofed, I tackled the interior, along with Annie, and enjoyed it immensely.
For the first time in my life, I found a tangible way to activate the right side of my brain, and it took the field of construction to bring it out. Specifically, in siding the interior of the bay window in redwood, I found a unique source of material.
A crucial component of any home addition, is the manner in which the new add-on is attached to the original. In this instance I had had to cut off the “tails” of the original roofline, to which the facia board is attached, in order to affix the new room.
So I had a stack of 22-and-a-half-inch long, two-by-six chunks of aged redwood. How could I utilize this little gift from the gods, creatively, besides burning it? I ended up running the pieces of redwood through the table saw, as simple a task imaginable, and ended up with an endless supply of 3/8-inch-thick strips of gorgeous redwood, almost two feet long.
I worked on a pair of wooden horses with a couple of two-by-four studs as spacers, and put a three-quarter-inch sheet of plywood across, to serve as a workbench. On this surface, I glued the strips of redwood, in varying lengths and patterns, to a heavy grade of tar paper, in order to be able to attach the completed sections to the bay window with finish nails.
Additionally, I had a stack of redwood siding, meticulously removed from the wall where the two structures were joined, that was now available to serve as trim for the interior of the bay, after an appointment with the belt sander.
Annie was working her magic with the sheet rock mud, texturing the walls in preparation for painting, and it all came together gloriously. It’s taken six years, but now her brothers can see the finished product, the one that was still in its infancy the last time they were here.
I guess this means I will finally have to finish the ceiling of the bay, which I have managed to forget about since 2010.