My college student helper, Luke, has been home for the holiday and has worked at the farm three days this week. He is such a smart and reliable worker that on Monday I could give him a long list and go to work myself, knowing that while I was teaching in the classroom, he was slowly but steadily pushing us forward.
Monday it was bitterly cold and windy. Luke spent the day mostly indoors, organizing.
Tuesday it was still only a few degrees about zero. Nevertheless Luke set the four treated 4×4 door posts for the addition, using a pick-axe to break through the frozen ground.
Wednesday was a frantic work-day for me, and in the midst of all the rush and worry there was a forecast of 6-10″ of snow. Luke took the day off and my only farm contribution was to care for the animals and stack all the detritus around the barn under the roof of the addition so the driveway would be clear for plowing.
As it turned out, the storm blew west of us, Deo gratias, and family and friends all arrived safely.
Thursday was the holiday.
Yesterday Luke and I could finally work together again. The last time we’d done so was back in October.
In September, in my few spare moments after starting my new job, I’d finished nailing down the roof plywood Luke and I had cut and tacked in place in August. (Here are D and his granddaughter, kibbitzing on the roof while I hammered hundreds of six-penny nails.)
In October, when Luke came home for Columbus Day weekend, he and I had rolled out the Ice and Water shield…
… and then put up the metal roof.
Naturally, we ran out of time, so half the roof was merely tacked.
This meant that the day before Halloween, when it was 33° and a windstorm was brewing, I’d had to finish the job alone. I had bundled up in winter coveralls, fleeces, winter jacket, hat, and boots, only to find that the metal was so slippery in the cold that I was in real danger of sliding off. There was no purchase at all. I could barely stand up. Even kneeling I began to slide down the slope.
I am deathly afraid of heights, but I could not risk the metal lifting and being bent and wrecked in the wind. So in the end I had peeled off my socks and driven the roofing screws in all my winter gear and bare feet, so I could maintain a grip on the steel. After ninety minutes my feet were numb blocks but the job was finished and the roof safe.
A few days later, in a repeat performance, I’d installed the flashing. The drip-edge and trim would have to wait.
Two weeks ago, my friends Allen and D trucked gravel up from the pond and raised the floor.
Last week D helped me shovel out the last gravel pile out to fill holes in the main barn, hours before the big freeze.
Now, yesterday, Luke and I were finally working together again. It was 8° below zero at daybreak so we had agreed on a late start at 9:30. (After a number of years working outside I have learned that when it’s too cold, little gets accomplished anyway so you might as well wait.)
First we cut and toe-nailed the knee braces on the addition’s long wall.
Then we measured and marked for the windows. Because the addition is so low, the windows on this side of the barn will be horizontal rather than vertical. I will pick the units up in New Hampshire when I drive to get Lucy for Christmas vacation.
Luke began cutting notches in our middle girts…
while I began driving the 500 nails in all the nailing plates for our knee braces. Even using a palm nailer (thank you, Gary, for introducing me to this handy little tool!) nailing plates are a tedious job.
Chiseling the notches smooth also took some time…
I was hosting a family dinner party so we quit at three. While I mucked the barn and fed the animals for the evening, Luke finished driving the nails in the last brace.
Leaving the farm at the end of the day, I was heartened. The doorways are cut. After so much delay and sweat and anxiety, finally the addition is beginning to look like a real building.
This morning when I got up at 4 AM it was -15° F. Luke and I will work today and he goes back to college tomorrow.
Fingers crossed for another jump forward!