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August 30, 1998

Decking

The weekend was gorgeous, sunny and bright, dry and clear. Some say that summer ends when you want it to, but I don't think they ever lived in Seattle. Summers here die quickly, all of a sudden the hot days and hot nights break into rain, and after that it's never the same. The days are just as brilliant, but the nights are cool and crisply cold, and things start to fall.

The prune tree is starting to drop ripe fruit, sweet, soft, lovely plums with a silver blush that's as much dust as it is a plum-friendly yeasts. The chipmunks and squirrels grab them while they're on the ground, and carry them up onto the wood pile and eat them while taunting Fezzik. Fezzik likes to chase them around the wood pile, following them until they run away, and they always getaway, usually scrambling under one of the cars so he can't follow. I've picked dozens in dozens of the plums, cut them in half and put them on a drying rack. They're drying in the back room, filling the air with their sweet scent. They'll be good and chewy in a few days.

I spent most of the weekend juggling teas, some hot for the morning, some cold in the afternoon, poured over ice to cool them quickly. I have so many teas, that it seems a shame to not use them, and some need to be used more quickly than others. What was really funny was that my dreams started to get filled with teas and when I should use them and how I should be scheduling my drinking. I think I'm getting a bit too obsessed with tea.

In between all that, I also help John build the decks around the house. He had the wood delivered for the surface of the deck on Friday, and his father came to help on Saturday. They built the frame for the deck by the front door on Saturday. I helped by slowly and gradually piling concrete rubble into a wheelbarrow, which John's Dad then dumped on a bit of cliff that we needed to stabilize. With the problems that I've been having with my hands, I try to do all the picking up without using my fingers. It took a little work, but I was able to do it.

Later in the day, John's Dad and I hauled nearly all the wood to the back deck. That was a lot of lifting and carrying, not something I would have tried if there hadn't been a need. Since it was necessary, I tried it, and kept nearly all the weight on my arms rather than in my hands. It turned out to be exactly the right thing to do. By Sunday morning, my arms were very sore and aching, but my hands were just fine. So I tried just a bit more on Sunday.

On Friday, the painters had said that they'd been stung by wasps while trying to paint the front of the house, so all weekend John and I were looking to see where the nest was. On Sunday we found it. It was up on the roof, about a quarter of the weight down from the top of a fairly high pitch roof just above the front door. It was not in a good place. Basically, I didn't want him going up there to deal with it, and he didn't really wanted go up there either. So, we called in some experts, and they took a look at it Sunday evening. When they looked at it, they said they weren't crazy enough to deal with it either, but did have a guy that worked during the regular week that would be that crazy. We took the opportunity to schedule him for Monday. John also called the painters to tell them that the wasps nest would be dealt with on Monday, so they were welcome to wait another day before finishing the front of the house. I was glad to hear the confirmation when they said they would wait. I have to admit that I felt bad that they had been stung in the first place.

I spent most of Sunday out on the front deck screwing in cedar decking boards. John and I spent quite a while laying out boards. Since the deck was longer than any of our boards, all that joins had to end up on a joist, and some planning had to be done to make sure that none of the joins lined up with each other. The boards were just gorgeous themselves, with all the possible colors that cedar can have, and since it was a tight-knot type of board, the knots themselves lent both additional colors and texture to the board surfaces. There were some nice, tight swirls of reds and golds and browns, that were going to be really beautiful once it was all finished.

The decking work required plenty of patience and attention to detail. Each board had to be drilled on the ends that would lie on the edges of the deck, because the screws would be very close to the edge and we didn't want them to split the boards. Also, at each juncture with each joist, two screws had to be set through the board into the joist about three-quarters of an inch in from the edges. This would prevent the boards from warping with time and weather. The screws would make sure that they didn't lift as well. Each screw had to be sent just barely below the surface of the wood, and with a battery-powered screwdriver, it took a little doing. Balancing the speed needed to drive the screw all the way into the wood with the control necessary to bring it just below the surface was pretty challenging. But, with all the practice I got pretty good at it.

The problem was that it wore at my hands. I had two nice blisters before the end of the day, and I wasn't sure if my grip on the drill would aggravated my wrists or not. So, I iced my wrists, and hoped for the best. The weight of the drill had helped my arm muscles get pretty sore, so I was pretty sure that it was helping with my arm strength, especially in my right arm.

After all the carrying on Saturday, I made John take me out for dinner at Cuchina Cuchina! where I had scampi on a bed of linguini with plenty of butter and garlic and lemon. Yum. We then stopped at Trader Joe's, and bought a great deal of food. Among the various great, cheap thrills that we were able to afford there was included a wonderful Artisan bread. The local bakery used a native leavening that resulted in a loose, large bubble structure in the bread, so it was soft, chewy, and need for a dense chewy crust. Really lovely work. The packaging said to eat it the day that it was bought, or as soon as was possible, and it was really good. I used it to hold cheesesteak for lunch, and then served it on the side for dinner on Sunday, next to a spinach-mushroom lasagna with some extra virgin olive oil and the balsamic vinegar that Carl gave me. It was wonderful, with a marvelous texture and the open structure to absorb all the flavors beautifully.

All in all, it was a very nice weekend. And, in the end, we had something to show for it. That was very nice in and of itself.

One troubling thing was that our main phone line was out for the entire weekend. We had no dial tone, and no one could call in. We finally realized it sometime Saturday afternoon, and also found out that our local phone company was dealing with a strike of its workers. So, they were only able to forward our number to the phone that is connected to our computers. The main problem with that, was that the only phone we could get to that was hooked up was the upstairs phone. So, there were a few times when someone called and I couldn't get hallway up the stairs before they stopped ringing. So, we may have lost a few calls.

Brought to you by Dragon System's Point & Speak.

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