With Elliott doing 360’s on the Daewoo, the boom fully up, historic cabin dis-assembly is complete. This was Friday last week and though a week behind schedule “Mission Accomplished” I can see the banner now. Not to make excuses but the deadline would have been made except for a little nor’easter. Anyone watching national news might know of this. From excuses to explanation, which starts a few months ago in September.
For week I’d seen pictures and heard discussion in passing of the historic cabin on route 560 in consideration for acquisition. I think it was just Elliott and I the first time I saw it. At first glance I wanted no part in the relocation. I saw a huge three story building; not the quaint, one room dwelling my imagination had generated. From the exterior it looked as though it would collapse from rot at any moment. With little time in the area of reclamation construction I thought it was hopeless. However, on the second visit my thoughts would be completely inverted.
A consultant and his assistant/carpenter were called to visit the BMR site, and then were to go see the cabin. We gave them the ever expanding site tour then went to Loch Lynn. Walking through the cabin was more antique appraisal then re-construction advice.
Reading the logs character and markings they pieced together a history of the cabin’s creation. A master carpenter, by trade, was used based on the ax accuracy and tool markings indicating specific tools designed for the purpose. The rafters were sawn using a water mill and pinned with railroad or hand hammered spikes on the outer wall and wooden pins at the peak. The arched saw marks on the roof boards indicated the roof remodeling after the advent of steam saws. A few hours and I was hooked, de-construction would start the next week.
Before diving right in I would seek well guided advice, Chuck, Bill, and Joe came out to take a look. The opening around the windows would have to be supported to hold the end of the log not attached in a corner. I was expecting this would have to be done and already had boards on site for this purpose. Aside from this they ensure me that the old cabin was far sturdier than I estimated. Caution however, would remain for the duration until the last log was on the trailer.
Approximately 150 years of remodeling with few layers ever removed cost the residents a few inches of head space. First came the carpet and foam backing, followed by three layers of laminate, each painting a picture of fashionable flooring of its generation. Square grid, funky hexagonal, and bright flower print. If done today I suppose wooden snap together flooring could find a place above the carpet.
This entire monstrosity layered over a moldy ¾ inch particle board sheeting covering the original sub-floor. I felt like I might develop TB or small pox or some other forgotten disease not thought of in generations. Luckily I had a respirator to alleviate the germaphobia. One disease from the bygone era, tetanus, was a real potential threat, and rusty nails in general aren’t much fun. Just getting to the original subfloor, or during its previous life the only floor, took at least a week and a half. The carpet was the worst, it brushes your skin and instantly a rash like hundreds of small mosquito bites develops. Glad it was only a week.
After the microscopic organisms it was on to the macro. Lady bugs and cluster flies on a horror movie magnitude. They live between the horse hair, straw, and mud that are the dobbing and the wooden chinking. As gross as it is I’m fascinated with this little ecosystem. What is the food source to supply such a large population? Are there days with mass exodus for food or reproduction or do they just stay in the walls. Either way, there are now a few million insect refugees on 560 looking for a place to make home. Removing dobbing and loose chinking was 3 days, followed by 2 days with a grain scoop getting it outside. The respirator, used for too small of a particle, soon clogged with dust. Regular old dust mask solved the problem.
Meetings occupied the next few days in preparation for the Mother Earth News Fair and DC Green Festival; the weekends were the fairs themselves. After DC it was back to KingWiltison Road.
Before we removed the flooring I wanted to cob blast the entire house inside and out. For those not familiar with cob blasting, it’s basically like sandblasting but with aggregate corn cob. Trifecta benefit, it doesn’t damage the logs but removes build up, doesn’t cost much if you do it yourself, and more important to our mission it is ecologically sustainable and compostable. The nearest place to rent a cob blaster ended up being in Uniontown, which is also near where we picked up material. With everything on site we began to clean the cabin. We borrowed Joel, one of Jason’s carpenters from Dels Construction, to help in the process. Cob blasting is kinda like the noise of a jet engine combined with a sand storm. Exfoliating to say the least.
Pulled a Tom Sawyer and had Elliott and Maureen running the gun for a minute. Elliott came out a few hours each day and ran the nozzle. I think getting bundled up made him want ski season, he kept saying it felt like skiing into a blower. Another day shoveling cob and the floor was clean again and ready for removal.
We had a window of good weather and decided to remove the roof. What looked like a 4/12 pitch was easily a 6 or 7, and 20 feet up was sketchy. Elliott and I removed the eve addition allowing access to the larger roof area. Removing shingles and rows of 1 inch boards we were able to remove the roof board by board from the top down. On one side the 1 inch boards had rotted and were covered with a layer of ½ inch plywood. Elliott got his first encounter with the lady bug and cluster fly problem and also was grossed out. The rafters which were pinned with rail road spikes were the big concern. Luckily they didn’t prove to be a problem and all were able to be saved. All that now stood were the walls and floors.
The floor boards were 1 inch tongue and groove with some boards 20+ inches wide and 20 feet long, all interlocking. To prevent damage, a 5 foot wide section length wise had the nails sawn from the joist. The old cut nails proved sturdy eating through saws-all blades left and right. Eventually the section was done and the center board was able to be pushed up without damage. With the floor no longer interlocking the rest were easy. The same process was repeated on the lower floor.
It is now October 23, oh how the time flies. The 18thwas the target date for the crane and I forget what exactly the holdup was but the crane had to be pushed back a week. Wednesday and Thursday Joel and Joe were on the site for the log removal. The days prior the logs had been tagged and measurements necessary for reassembly were taken.
The top story is the only level with pins, 1 ½ inch wooded dowels, either oak or hickory. We tried lifting the logs with pins in place while prying on the ends, but no go. Joe saved the day with paddle bits and a cordless impact drill. In short time he had the corners drilled and the logs were stacking up on the trailer. 11 o’clock and the first trailer pulled out. A 15,000 pound capacity trailer filled with 27 logs, three rows 9 logs wide. We took a break while the next trailer arrived then it was back to work. With one more trailer filled, we called it a day. The next morning we started with the floor joist, not nailed just wedged in place with wood chips. These are light enough for 2 guys to lift so we carried them out by hand. The last walls came down easy, it’s always better to be closer to the ground. Then there was Monday, and we received the aforementioned weather event.Temperatures remained in the 20’s and although great for cross country skiing, that was about it. Wednesday Elliott and I shoveled and move the lower logs into a pile; the foundation rocks were picked and placed in a separate pile. A smile just comes across your face only rivaled by possibly the joy of a wake or snow skate experience, when given the chance to drive a large excavator. One more day loading the logs and saved flooring and the site is filled in. That brings us right back to the celebratory 360’s. I would like to give big thanks to Hobbitat, Frank’s Excavating, Del Construction, Beitzel Corp. and Rush Excavating for all assistance in the project. A History of the cabin’s life, its residents and owners will come in the next few months.
Bryan Barnard – BMR