Journal: November 5th, 2009

I’m sitting in my hut as I type this. It’s the first time I’ve spent time in the hut while not working on it. Outside, it’s raining. With the clouds obscuring the normally starry skies, it’s eerily dark. I’ve never seen it so dark out here. Even when the moon isn’t out, I can normally clearly see the outline of the trees, and move around, albeit with some difficulty. Right now, it’s just swirling darkness.

But inside the hut, it’s quite nice. I have music playing on my laptop, and have been nursing a hot mocha that’s now two-thirds empty and luke warm. I am completely shut off from the outside world, except for the when the tarp covering my roof rattles, and I know a gust of wind just blew by. It’s kind of ironic. I bought 60 acres of land far away from the cities and suburbs, yet right now, I could just as well be in someone’s shed in a backyard in Sunnyvale.

Progress on the hut has been slow. I didn’t get here until well after dark on Tuesday. Yesterday (Wednesday), I spent the better part of the morning putting up siding on two small squares. It took a while because I’m out of nice big boards of plywood, and have resorted to cutting up scraps. One section I did measures about 29 inches by 35 inches or so, and is comprised by no fewer than 3 pieces of plywood, one of which is maybe 6 inches by 10 inches.

I lost nearly a couple of hours bringing up gear from my car. When I’m here for a short stay, I usually leave my cooler and freezer behind, and hike in with nothing more than a backpack. But for these longer stays, I have to bring civilization with me. The freezer, cooler, 12 Volt deep cycle battery, battery charger… Now that my generator’s fixed, I can leave the battery here.

Later in the afternoon, I finally got around to working on the door. I’ve been putting it off mentally because doors are hard. Nothing in my hut is square or parallel or perpendicular as they should be. But, for the most part, it’s not a huge issue. With doors, precision matters. If the hinges aren’t alined, the door might not shut, or it might put unnecessary strain on the hinges or other parts. There’s also the inherent challenge in securing something that’s inherently mobile. What order do I do things in? Do I build a door, attach the hinges to the door, then the door+hinges to the frame? Or do I first attach the hinges to the frame, then attach the door to the hinges? At the end, I opted for a hybrid approach. I first built the skeleton of the door itself (really, it’s a frame, but I’ll call it a “skeleton” to disambiguate it from the doorframe). Then, I screwed on the hinges to the doorframe, then measured the precise location the corresponding screws would need to go on the door skeleton, and pre-drilled holes. Then, I attached the door skeleton to the hinges already attached to the doorframe. The task was made easier by the fact that the door skeleton, without its plywood skin, was light enough to handle. Had I built the entire door first, it would’ve been too unwieldy attach to the doorframe with any precision, since the screws are accessible only when the door is in the open position and thus swinging unsupported. I am pleased to say that my approach worked. The door swings freely, and is square and parallel to the hut, as far as I can tell. This morning, I attached pieces of plywood (again, cut from scraps) to the door skeleton. It’s bigger than the skeleton so that it sort of seals the gaps. It’s not the prettiest door, nor is it anywhere air tight, but it’s certainly a huge improvement over the big gaping opening I had before.

I spent all of the afternoon putting up plywood to cover the gables. Since I stupidly neglected to borrow Keith’s ladder, I had to start by building scaffolding. A couple of two-by-fours screwed on/in to the hut, such that a couple of feet stuck out to support a platform was all that was needed. But because I needed all the two-by-fours for the scaffolding, I couldn’t use one to finish a 16″-wide section of the wall next to the door. Right now, I have some roofing tar paper covering that space to help block the wind, but it’s a poor substitute for a proper wall. In any case, I’m almost done with the gables. I just have a small triangular section open on the South side gable. Once that’s patched, I’ll be able to use a two-by-four to finish that last bit of wall, and my hut will be fully enclosed. Well, excepting the many gaps, big and small, that is.

I’m a little concerned about the weather. I need to paint the exterior before it gets much wetter, but I can’t paint if it’s going to rain before the paint dries. I don’t have access to weather forecasts, but it’s sprinkling now, and I’m not sure when the next dry spell is coming. I might have to weatherproof by putting up tar paper, or the cheap plywood I’m using for my exterior siding could deteriorate rather rapidly.

With the exterior hull of my hut nearing completion, I’m starting to turn my attention to finer details. For instance, where do I want to put my cot? I’d originally planned on building a wide but short cot oriented along the short side (North-South) of the hut, maybe 20 inches off the floor. But, I was just surveying the interior, and realized that it might make sense to build the cot higher up, loft-style. Heat rises, so higher up I am, the warmer I should be. Also, CO2 sinks, so in the unlikely event that I actually manage to seal my hut, I’ll be less likely to suffocate. The problem is, if I want to build a loft, it makes more sense to build it along the longer side, specifically on the Southern side, where there are no windows. On the other hand, if the cot is oriented along the long side, it juts out into the short orientation, leaving less space. I might opt to build a narrow cot along the long side. I wanted a wider cot in case a girlfriend came to visit, but in that case, we can both sleep on the floor; having another heat source should compensate for the slightly cooler temperature. Besides, it’s kind of silly to design a hermit hut with the assumption that anyone would come visit.

One thought on “Journal: November 5th, 2009

  1. The door issue seems similar to a problem I had today, I was putting a magnetic clasp into the lining of a bag, something I will never do again. I wondered after attaching the clasp to the lining if I should have done it in a different order, namely started sewing the lining in before putting the clasp in because the magnets were getting in the way of appropriately positioning the lining. However, your problem seems much harder.

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