Monday, September 22, 2008

Six days you shall labor...

We North Americans are a spoiled lot as a whole. Most work cushy 40 hour per week jobs. We have decent houses, cheap food, plenty of entertainment (to the point of distraction), etc.

It’s killing us.

We need something to scare us or shake us up bad enough that we all become willing to work hard like it mattered. Alternatively, if we could all figure out what work really gives us joy, it would not be a burden to “work” hard and long. We as individuals and we as a country could do so much better. Work is presently viewed as a necessary evil. We try to minimize it and get out it at every opportunity. Many studies have shown that the average worker wastes 5-12 hours per week while “on the job”. This attitude about work is a lie. In reality, work is a blessing in the very real and literal sense of the word.

For a long time, I was always a bit worried about the 4th commandment. Paraphrased, it says that for six days of the week, we should labor, but on the seventh day, we should rest. My difficulty is that I was always worried about breaking the “rest” half of the equation. My day job is totally desk bound. So “rest” for me might mean nailing 2x4’s together so I can get off my butt, get some exercise and a little fresh air outside. Some branches of Christianity have very prescriptive and legalistic ideas about the observance of the Sabbath. I am sure they will frown on my view of restful Sunday activities. Oh well, I am not answerable to them, but only to my master.

Eventually, I realized that it’s a very individual thing. Think about the golf pro. He plays golf for a living. Do you think he wants to play golf on his Sabbath? Is that relaxing for him? What about the literature critic or the editor? Do you really think it is restful for them to read another book on Sunday? Maybe they want to get out and wash and wax their car and give their critical neural faculties the day off. But for the person who works at a detail shop who washes and waxes cars professionally, this would be the last thing they would want to do on their day off. I could give many other examples that illustrate that what is restful and even worshipful for me, might be work in the worst sense of the word for you.

The idea that recently got my attention, and the real focus of today’s post, is the fact that I had been ignoring half of the commandment for decades. Rest and worship are good and needful and commanded, but don’t forget that the first half of the command says, get off your ass and go do something useful and productive and WORK six days a week. Not 4.5 days, not 5 days, but six days you shall labor. There are numerous other references in scripture that say various un-pc things like, If you are able bodied, and you’re not working, you shouldn’t eat and, by implication, we should not and will not feed you either. Wow, when’s the last time you heard a sermon on that?

I’m totally convinced I could cure 2/3 of everything that’s wrong with North American culture if I could just get people to turn the TV off and work steadily, at something they love, six days a week. We wouldn’t be polluting our minds with a lot of the unhealthy garbage that one finds on the TV programming and the blasted ads. That’s big win number one.

Consider the current Wall Street financial meltdown as an example. It’s big, it’s bad, it’s ugly, it’s stupid, it was totally avoidable and it’s wrong on 10 different levels I’m sure. But how big is it, really? The level of hysteria and media screeching puts this at the same level as the Great Depression. PLEASE!!

The current number being thrown around is 700 billion dollars the taxpayers might lose. Together with the 300 billion they have already thrown down the rat hole, that makes a trillion dollars of your money and mine. They might get some of it back. They might even make a profit in the long run. All irrelevant to our discussion. For illustrative purposes, let’s suppose the government completely fritters away a trillion dollars of our tax money. What does that work out to per person?

That’s $1,000,000,000,000/300,000,000 people. Are you ready? That works out to $3,333.33 per person. Right, approximately 3,500 bucks for every man, woman and child in the United States. We will let the kiddies off and not force them to get paying jobs right now. But suppose all the rest of us, say, 200,000,000 (200 million) able bodies adults got part time jobs to pay this off immediately to prevent our economy from quitting in its tracks. Let’s see, that makes it an even five grand per able bodied adult. Let’s say we could all scratch up a part time job for ten hours a week and seven bucks an hour. $5,000/$7 = 714.3 hours. This entire, world economy stopping, great depression could be totally paid off and gone in 714/10hrs per week = 71 weeks. In 1.36 years, the whole thing would be a bad memory.

But no, that would be unpopular to take your medicine now and get it over with. We’re going to let the Federal Government administrate this to death for a decade or two and allow it to screw things up until our grandchildren have to deal with it. And really, it’s just an illustration of how powerful this concept is.

In conclusion, let me say that my day job takes up 50 hrs/wk, not counting transportation, etc. My biodiesel hobby takes another 5-6 hours per week. I heat my house with wood, so that sucks up another couple of hours per week all year long. I don’t have much spare time. But I do feel like I am obeying that fourth commandment, both the second half and the first half. I really feel that God is blessing my efforts.

I anticipate that the shop will be done in one year. So somehow, I have managed to build a structure the size of the average house, in my very limited “spare” time. It will add tens of thousands of dollars to the value of my property. It will give me decades of pleasure in the pursuit of my hobbies. It is a physical testament of what we could accomplish if we were motivated.

Collectively, we in North America could work veritable miracles if we just got off our duffs and did useful stuff, like we meant it, six days a week. Incomes would go up. Tax revenue would go up. The deficit (which threatens to kill this country and many others) would magically melt away. We would suddenly all have plenty of money to retire with dignity and without the need for government hand outs. We would have piles of cash to provide record breaking levels of charity. People would stare in open-mouthed wonder at the success of our nation.

All from simple obedience to the fourth commandment.

Of course, I am not endorsing work-a-holics, or people who worship their job more than their creator, or people who are obsessed with money, or people who neglect their family because they work too much. It’s all about balance.

Friday, September 19, 2008

::happy sigh::

Oh, devoted reader, I did not want to keep you waiting so here I am posting instead of falling into bed quite weary....The news is good:

At 8:36 this evening, east met west and the "golden spike" was driven in.

All the trusses are up and in place! Glory Halleluia! Things went quite swimmingly tonight despite having to work past sundown. (It's getting so early now.) Plus, even though we didn't get a lot accomplished on Wednesday as far as trusses, we did leave everything in place to have a jump start tonight.

Moving the two trusses turned out to be very straight forward. Getting the double truss apart was no trouble. (Only one nail as Troy thought, and even it wasn't driven all the way in.) And moving those trusses showed us how we could be almost twice as efficient by only moving the scaffolding every two trusses instead of every time. Let me tell you, by truss #37 we were a well-oiled machine. Of course that's when we had to switch methods.

It worked out that we had to turn over and "stack up" the final four trusses so we had enough room to flip them upright. (Because it takes about 6 feet in which to flip the truss, we couldn't just keep putting them in one at a time.) So we stacked up four trusses and then moved them into place one at a time, just like the ones we had to move at the beginning of the night. Easy peasy puddin n pie.

Before I fall into bed, I will leave you with a shot of the trusses (ALL of them!) in the moonlight:

Ok ok, it's lamplight, but moonlight sounds so much better. Til later,

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Oh tonight was the night. Tonight we were going to get those last 10 trusses up and be done with it; oh yes we were. We left work directly; we ate dinner quickly; we changed into work clothes and reported to the job site promptly. We installed truss #1 for the night. We installed truss #2 right next to it (for the double truss). We moved the scaffolding and were installing truss #3.

Troy flips it up and says, "Something's just not right." This began an hour long investigation of why the trusses weren't vertical. We knew they weren't quite up to snuff how we last left them, but Troy sensed something deeper going on.

We went back to the east gable and started to remeasure everything. All the trusses should be 24" apart. We have about 5 points that we measure where the trusses are either chain-ganged to each other by a 1x4 or sitting on the wall at premarked positions. Long story short, the walls are not divisible evenly by 24" so the last space between the east gable and the first truss was not 24". Oooohhhhhh. So it was about 22" on the walls since the position had been marked, but it was tacked into place at 24" in the center. This would cause about...oh...2 inches of lean. And that's about what we had. We took out a bunch of nails and put in a bunch more nails and the trusses look pretty vertical now. The east gable does not, but we can fix that at the end. (It seemed impossible at the moment to get it all vertical at the same time, but we'll work on the gable when the trusses at the east end attach to the trusses at the west end.)

But this is not the end of the story.

I counted twice and had Troy double check how many trusses we had left, where they went, and when we had to stop the double trusses and start the single trusses. (You see where this is going already, don't you, smart quick perceptive reader.) I've told you we had 10 left, we were going to do one more double and had 8 singles to go. WELL. While Troy is nailing in the final readjustments on the trusses, I decide to recount, just to make sure. Then I'm double counting again just hoping I was wrong. I wasn't. I make Troy count and I'm still not wrong. Apparently there were two marks under the hanging trusses and not just one because we are one truss short. Oh yes, double ::sigh:: Troy even said a swear word of "shitsky" if you can call that a swear word. (It is for Troy.) But he said it gently.

So we put up three trusses tonight and will only have to remove and reposition two of them. Troy is grateful he nailed our final double truss with only one nail. It will still be a job to get it apart. At this realization, we retired for the night (it was darkening already and the bugs were getting plentiful as well). We will attack this again on Friday evening. Be thinking very positive thoughts. Things like, "I hope Christina can count tonight." That would be a good start.

In all humility,

Rain, Rain

So are you wondering how we are getting on with all this rain?

What rain? The rain that came pouring down over us all through the weekend. The whole area has been breaking records and experiencing flooding all over the place. From some time on Friday to the same time on Saturday we broke any and all existing record for rainfall in a 24 hour period. Saturday's evening news reported that we had smashed (flooded?) the record for a calendar day and it was still raining and continued to rain past midnight. (Most numbers I've heard are some where between 10 and 12 inches total rain.)

On a personal level, I went to empty the rain guage on Saturday afternoon and it was full. Like full, full, like 5 inches full. At first I thought it was like the time I let the sprinkler go on so long it filled the rain guage and then when I noticed it later I was surprised it had rained that much but then realized it was just the sprinkler. ha ha. But no, this time it was really the rain. A full rain guage is a suprising thing to see. And the next day, I emptied out 4.5 inches more. Wow and wow.

And as to how we are actually fairing with all this wetness: good. The shop's floor drain is functional and worked great as long as Troy kept the leaves and flotsam from clogging it. The basement is not really much wetter than it is with any heavy rain; and certainly not so bad that the sump pump can't take care of it in short order. The dehumidifier we have running down there did conk out, but Troy tells me he was able to fix the old dehumidifier (which is actually newer than the one we were using, but that is another story) and so now we are back in business as far as humidifiers go.

Very little work (like no work) was done on the shop over the weekend, so we put our noses to the grind stone tonight...but I think I will post that separately even though that will mean many of you will read that post before this post, unless you specifically read by date and not just from the top of the page down. In either case, I'm sure none of the interesting bits will lose their shine.

Oh, ya, and on more water issues: the upstairs sink is still not functional. Troy replaced all the drain pipes etc but couldn't get out the pipe attached to the sink which is an old size (too small) and ditto on the size of the pipe he's reconnecting all this to. So the sink is reassembled, we hope the patches will hold, and Troy has to cut the hole in the floor a little bigger to accommodate the new larger pipe. One day at a time, sweet Jesus...

Til then,

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pictures, as promised. Here's a general view of the job site (from the southeast corner):
Except for the gaping hole you see, most of the plywood is up on the outside walls.

Here are the trusses we've added on the east end of the shop.
Troy originally planned to have some double studs at this end, right in front of the garage door, so he could use the strength for hoisting things out of the pickup, hanging up the tractor, or whatever else he may try. (Ok, really, I'm just kidding about the tractor.) But as we were installing the trusses we ran into a situation where it was not so convenient to move on to the next spot. (I.e. we forgot to move the scaffolding and were a little tired of running up and down the ladders.) So Troy improvised and decided we should try a triple stud. 
He liked it so much, we did two. So now he has a double stud, two triple studs, and we can put in one more double stud. Then we've got eight more single studs to do.

The new set of trusses have started to lean to the west. Troy decided we had to fix that last night before we left the site alone for the weekend. We did not get it quite level yet,
but they are better, and certainly much more secure than they were. We'll fix them up a little more next time we're out there.

By now Troy and I have a system for this new procedure. While the truss is hanging upside down, we each drag one end from where it sits to its new position. The scaffolding is [usually] placed so that the truss runs up against it and we use the scaffolding to flip the truss into a horizontal position. Troy then makes his way from the wall to the scaffolding along the previous trusses. He climbs onto the top of the scaffolding and flips the truss up into position. We push it into place and tack it down. Then move onto the next. It's not quite a total body workout: Troy is going to get Popeye arms with all the hammering he does, and I will end up with thunder thighs as it is left to me to do all the ladder scrambling.

Good night,

Friday, September 12, 2008

Things I Learned While Doing Trusses in the Rain

  1. Wet wood is heavier.

  2. Wet plywood is slipperier.

  3. Walking on wet plywood in rubber boots is precarious. I'm grateful for all my experience on ice. It helped.

  4. Dragging a truss across wet plywood is easier. And having all the remaining trusses already up on the wall is a lot easier than lifting them.

  5. Feeling light headed on top of a wall is not a nice feeling. But it is survivable.

All this being said, we worked tonight in a very very light drizzle and all things went well. If life in general goes well tomorrow, I'll be able to post some pics.

Good night,

PS: We lit our first fire tonight. It was so chilly and damp. The living room is not habitable (too hot) but the rest of the house feels great.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Labour Weekend: Headers Up

I am late in reporting, nevertheless work was accomplished on the final day of Labour Weekend. Joel staunchly showed up despite barely having recovered from the stomach flu. He apologized for not being at 100%, but I'm quite sure he was a better work partner for Troy than I. Especially with what they were lifting.

Troy had the sections of the outside east wall in place and ready to receive the header for the garage door. They attached robust "legs" to the header so they could stand it up. It took some discussion, but in not too much time we had a course of action that we thought would work with minimal loss of life. We tied a few ropes around the header and to the bar of the front end loader on the tractor. Then while Troy and Joel lifted, I very deftly controlled the front end loader to bring the header up as high as they could reach. [Insert imaginary picture here: no one caught my masterful work on pixels.] Troy then dismissed me so he could take over.
The rest of us all stood a good ways back in case something popped, exploded, or otherwise went haywire. (This is part of Troy's "no bleeding" policy.)

And like a big juicy piece of cake, it was up:

Once in place, it was safe to return to close proximity. Joel is working on nailing the whole works in place while Troy is looking on admiringly:
One word for the next picture: ta-da!

Natalie wanted in on all the action, but her favourite piece of board was carried around like a treasured dolly. I think she felt very important and productive carrying it around. She was completely amusing.
This week, Troy has worked on some more plywood for the roof. He's got it pretty squared up (that would be yours truly who pulled the whole roof into alignment, by the by) and ready to just start slamming pieces up. The rain has slowed some of that down.

He has also built one section of the inner east wall and we bolted that into place tonight.

Troy is very much feeling the cool air of winter blowing on the back of his neck. Here was a conversation we had last night:
Troy: Boy, I'm going to be hard pressed to get this closed in by winter. I sure hope you like putting shingles down.
Christina: Oh yes! I've been looking forward to it!
Troy: No, seriously; you may have to do a lot more of it.
Christina: I know...I've been thinking about doing shingles...I can't wait.
Troy: (long look) You sure are a good liar, honey.

But really, I can throw shingles around a lot easier than a sheet of plywood (especially 3/4 inch plywood) and **bang! bang! bang!** a nailgun--what's not to like? Watch out, boys! Cause here I come.

But yes, fall is here or nearly here. I can no longer deny it. Gone is the infinite time and possibility of spring and the lazy timelessness of summer. This is fall, and not only has time slipped through your fingers, if you look down you can actually see it soaking into the ground. Time is short. So get going.


Monday, September 01, 2008

Labour Weekend

We have been steadily and faithfully doing work on the shop. All the trusses are off of the driveway and up on the walls. 20 are erect and installed in place. Most have their hurricane fasteners to keep them attached to the walls.

The other 23 are hanging upside down waiting to be installed. We had to get them up while we still had room to maneuver.

The cap piece will go up next at the east end (the open end) and then we will move the rest in place, flip them over, etc, in whatever order seems best at the time. Before the cap can go in place, however, the walls on the east end will need to go up, including the massive header over the garage door opening. (You can see the header standing on the left side of the shop in the above picture--it's the thing that looks like an extremely neat pile of 2x4s, which it kind of is.)

While we were hanging the trusses, we thought we should check for any sagging in the walls. Especially before we added (23 x 140lbs=) 3,220 lbs of weight right in the middle. When we had two trusses hanging (280 lbs), the walls were bulging about an inch. So we braced the two walls with a comealong and some rope and brought it right back in line.

We had a little excitement as we were bringing in the walls when the two trusses decided to do a massive shift at the same time. They didn't actually fall and no one was hurt, but it was a good reminder to always be aware and cautious. And speaking of which, here's a little sampling of what it may feel like to be walking on a 12" board 14 feet up.

And finally a closeup of Troy's plywood hoist (ramp? I forget what Troy called it...). You could see it in the first picture of this post too. It works very simply: you shove the plywood onto the brace from below and then climb up to the roof and haul it up from above. So it's possible to do this on your own--granted it's not the most efficient with just one person--and even with two people it makes the task more manageable.

We need to put up some more fascia boards before we can continue with plywood. Troy and I may be doing that this morning before Joel shows up this afternoon to give us some help. I think Julie, Natalie and I will be going to the neighbour's to pick some of the pears they're giving away. It's going to be over 90* and humid so wish us luck!

What are you labouring on on your Labour Day?


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