Sunday, September 7 2014
After last night's rain, I went down to the greenhouse and found between one and two inches in the bottom. The bottom is currently so flat that the sheet of water covered about 20 square feet, the floorspace of a small bathroom. But it was all hewn into the rock by me, mostly using hand tools.
As though it were a large scab or facial carbuncle, I continued picking at the big lump of loose rock near the north end of the central floor-support girder. Eventually I just removed the whole thing, leaving nothing to support the girder on that end. Somehow the girder remained in place, mostly because of some weak cantilevered shale somewhat strengthened by the concrete used to set the girder (back when I thought I was placing it in permanent bedrock). It was now unsafe to continue walking back and forth on the floor supported by that girder, though I did a couple times just to clear out the rest of the rock and then bring in an old dry 57-inch-long piece of Chestnut Oak to serve as a temporary pillar. Wedged into place, it fit nicely beneath the girder and gave me confidence to begin the work of installing a permanent structure to replace the now-missing bedrock.
I wanted to continue chipping away at the bedrock directly beneath the north end of the girder, and this meant that I couldn't simply replace the missing bedrock with a stack of mortared stones. What I would have to do instead would be to attach a cantilevered chunk of concrete to the smooth-walled face of the existing rock, but to make it secure, I'd have to drill some holes into that rock and insert pieces of metal. So I proceeded to drill six holes (some of them three inches deep) into the rock with a 3/8 inch masonry bit. Then I mixed up some portland cement (it's a bag I should probably throw out, since most of it has turned to limestone), spackled it into those holes, and then pounded in a variety of bolts, large spiral-shafted nails, and long thick pieces of steel wire. With all that metal bristling from the rock face, I could then design some sort of mold, pour in the concrete, and then have a sound foundation for the girder. That pouring, though, would have to wait until I got a fresh bag of concrete.
This isn't the first time that my progressive subtraction of rock has undermined the structure of the greenhouse in ways that have required repair. The structure was placed essentially randomly upon the underlying geologic system, and it stands to reason that there will be places where weak rock will coincide with essential structures, and in those cases I will dig away the bad stuff, put in a small-but-strong replacement, and only then return to my excavating.
This evening, that guy (I think his name is Jeff) from down on Hurley Mountain Road called to say he'd finally caught the three-legged cat Phoebe and placed her in a cat carrier. So I prepared the upstairs bathroom to resume her acclimation to our house, which had ended back on June 11th with her fleeing into the forest. She was yowling loudly on arrival, and Jeff carried her up to the bathroom. I closed the door, opened the carrier, and that cat immediately began to scale the wall above the toilet. There's a bookshelf and a knee wall adjacent to the shower there, so there were surfaces to land on, but it was still amazing to see what she could do without her left paw. Jeff is a bit of a talker, and we jibber-jabbered in the driveway for awhile while Celeste the kitten played beneath the Subaru and Ramona kept trying to jump up ("No, Ramona!"). I offered Jeff a $100 reward, but he refused it, saying he was a cat lover and all he cared about was the three legger getting back to her home.
Once Jeff was gone, I went back upstairs to check on Phoebe. I looked everywhere in the bathroom, and she wasn't in any of the usual places (behind the toilet, in the closet, up on the window sill, etc. I don't know what made me finally look there, but when I found her, she was very cleverly hiding in the above-toilet bookshelf behind the books. That's the best hiding place in the whole world.
Phoebe yelled at me initially, but when I petted her on the head, she started purring. Before long, she was seriously considering jumping down from the bookshelf. By this time, Ramona, Eleanor, Celeste the Kitten, and Phoebe's old buddy Oscar were all in the bathroom. I'd love to tell you that when Phoebe laid eyes on Oscar, she immediately jumped down and gave him a hug. But that's not what happened. She did eventually come down and the two sniffed each other. There was recognition, but there was none of the jubilation that such a reunion would have precipitated among humans, dogs, or any sort of herd animal.
Jeff had warned me about how feral Phoebe had become, that she hated dogs and other cats and would fight fiercly if provoked. But all I was seeing in the bathroom tonight was her being incredibly sweet. Somewhat unexpectedly, within an hour, she had resumed her acclimation trajectory at the state she'd reached prior to fleeing into the woods 88 days ago. Phoebe became friendly towards me, walking up and rubbing against me while purring. She also seemed to recognize Ramona and was friendly towards her, and (as she had been months ago) she was as indifferent to Eleanor as Eleanor had been to her. Understandably, Phoebe didn't know what to make of Celeste (the kitten we'd gotten when we'd assumed Phoebe had been lost forever). The only bad thing that happened in all of this was that at some point Celeste hissed at Phoebe, something she rarely does to other cats. Perhaps she'd already determined that she was now part of a feline love triangle.
Gretchen returned this evening from Toronto, having driven the final leg back from Newark.
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