Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   amphibian and hummingbird rescues
Saturday, August 26 2023

location: 800 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY

The weather today was finally sunny and seemed like it would be consistently so, which meant I could return to working on the foundation insulation project. When I climbed down into the ditch along the south wall starting at the cabin's southwest corner, I found a cornucopia of small amphibians trapped at the bottom. There were toads of different colors, frogs, and fair number of red efts. None of the toads or frogs were bigger than a quarter. I scooped them out and threw them up along the west wall, later encountering some of the toads and frogs hopping around trying to find a place to shelter themselves through the daytime. With them out of the way, I could dig a small hole down to the foundation right at the southwest corner to insert some pieces of scrap styrofoam in the sector between the scrap styrofoam lying along the footing on the west side and the styrofoam lying along the footing on the south side.
As I've been digging out slots for four-foot-wide sheets of styrofoam on the south side, I've discovered the soil is a little different here. Apparently concerned about drainage on the uphill side of the cabin (which is the south side), the contractors who placed the fill against the foundation there used a different material in the top six to twelve inches. Instead of the usual sand, they laid down a layer of what seems like loam. Its fine particles of clay make it more resistant to drainage, thus such soil would tend to shed water instead of soaking it up, which (in the case of the cabin) would cause it to flow into a subtle ditch running along the south edge of the building site instead of percolating down to the foundation. This loamy material is probably the "fine" soil I'd found myself having to remove from then bottom of the still-open ditch along the east wall, having been eroded into it by runoff along the soil along the east end of the south foundation wall. As my digging today progressed, I was careful to keep this loamy soil in a separate pile from the pure sand that I'm finding beneath it so that I can later put the soil horizons back together in an arrangement similar to how I found it.

The second sheet of styrofoam along the south foundation wall didn't give me the usual problems of trench wall collapse, perhaps because the sand I was removing at the bottom of the trench wasn't so waterlogged, due to a nearby transition to a deeper footing (more about that later). My problems with trench wall collapse always seem to happen when I'm digging waterlogged sand away from just above the footer. This causes more waterlogged sand adjacent to my digging to be squeezed out by the weight of the overlying soil, which then loses support and collapses.

I took a little break after the installation of the second sheet of styrofoam by walking again down to the dock. This time it seemed like maybe both dogs would follow me, but only Neville did, and it took him awhile to get down there. By the time he arrived, still hobbling a bit on his gimpy right front paw, I was ready to head back.

Back at the cabin, I ate a little food and cracked open a beer to drink as I continued with my foundation insulation project.
In digging the third slot along the south foundation wall, I encountered the foundation discontinuity reflected in the different slab elevations within the basement itself. As I mentioned in a previous entry, the guys who dug out the foundation encountered shallow bedrock at the west end of their dig and opted to save themselves a lot of trouble by simply pouring the basement slab there thirteen inches higher. They also put in correspondingly shallower foundation walls. But from now on after this transition, all the rest of my work would be on the deeper foundation walls more typical of the cabin.
On this slot, the trench wall collapses were worse and more numerous than I'd ever encountered. I took countermeasures, driving in five foot pieces of rebar and putting boards (and cardboard) behind the rebar to trap falling sand. But the struggle was so bad and deep part of the trench now so deep that I had to limit the scope of what I was doing. Instead of digging all the way down to the now-deeper footing, I stopped a few inches short (since all of this was well below the frost line). By the end there, I was forced to use some rope to keep one of the pieces of rebar (which had been creeping northward) from getting in the way of where the new sheet of styrofoam had to go. It was dusk by the time I finally had a piece of styrofoam cut for the slot, and I ended up working in the light of a high-brightness lamp (customized with my weatherization features) that I'd been using in the trench under the decks along the east foundation wall. (I could conveniently hang it from a hook placed on the lip of the gutter overhead.)
After my busy day of digging, I heard what sounded like someone practicing with a light sabre in the cabin's upstairs loft. I looked up there and saw a female hummingbird flying around. The little lady kept flying upward, always with the hope of breaking through some hole in the ceiling. But there were no such holes. So she'd periodically rest by landing on top of the parabolic dish I use to concentrate the cellular signal onto my Moxee hotspot. I open the sliding glass door to the upstairs deck, turned on a light out there, and turned off every light in the cabin and tried shooing her out with first a mop and then a rake, but she had no trouble eluding these things and going back to her hopeless attempt to breach the ceiling drywall. So I withdrew and watched, hoping she'd figure it out on her own. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but dragonflies have a much better algorithm for escaping houses. Sure, they'll trying going up, assuming there has to be a hole up there somewhere. But when that doesn't work, they recalibrate and try escaping horizontally. Hummingbirds, however, will keep trying to fly upwards until they exhaust themselves, even when there is an easy escape through an open door staring them right in the face. Happily, at some point the hummingbird came down from the ceiling near the open door, perhaps looking for a perch to rest on. And then she maybe felt a breeze or heard a distance sound and then zoom! She was off into the darkness. I left the light on out there for a minute or so in case she needed to find a place to sleep for the night (they don't see well at night) and then went back to my life, already in progress.

Neville on the dock this afternoon as I was about to head back to the cabin. Click to enlarge.

The ditch when I was digging the slot for the third sheet of styrofoam along the south foundation wall (coming from the west). The bottom of the ditch is stepped, with the closest step being the transition of the footing from shallow to deep. (The other step is just result of digging in one place and not in the other. Note anti-collapse measures I've been forced to take. Click to enlarge.

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