void beneath the bulkhead stairs
Saturday, September 30 2023
location: 800 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY
For me it was another busy day at the cabin. After drinking my usual coffee and eating my usual toast, I used wire to fortify two anti-mouse barricades I installed. The first was around the solar panel conduit mentioned (and photographed) yesterday. I bent a series of crenellations (in two different dimensions) into a wire and then wrapped that multi-crenellated wire around the conduit. With other wire, I made a long (four feet or so) crenellated pattern that I then stuffed into the long narroww gap between the top of the Bilco door unit and the cabin siding. I'm pretty sure there is no actual way to access the cabin from within that gap, but I'd seen mice hanging out in there and wanted to be sure. Once these crenellated wires were in place, I blasted them all with pest-block spray foam. I then used the rest of that foam to fill in any of the gaps in the styrofoam paneling I'd installed on the inside of the bulkhead walls yesterday.
Then I mixed up yet another batch of portland cement and used it to fix some delamination happening on the cement covering the styrofoam on the outside of the basement bulkhead. I also slathered additional portland cement into some of the bigger gaps at the top of some of the sheets of Wonderboard and Durock along the north and east foundation wall. Among other advantages to more cement here is that it further covers up exposed foam, which could theoretically become an access vector for chewing varmints some day. Sure, they might not be able to chew through the wall initially, but if they started with a nest that they felt comfortable in, they could use that as a base for attacking harder materials at their leisure. The portland cement provides a hard initial barrier that discourages access to any of the foam.
Next, turned my attention to the landscaping I'd done yesterday. I still had some anti-erosion measures to take along the uphill side of the cut I'd made through the landscape when making the new path going northward from the vicinity of the cabin's northeast corner. So I cut four solid stakes from a beech sapling, driving them deep into the ground at regular intervals. I then stuffed old leaves and branches behind the stakes to form a crude wall of vegetative matter that will hopefull slow ground runoff enough to prevent erosion.
Late this afternoon, I took the dogs for a walk down to the dock and then took Ramona for a paddle in the canoe clockwise around the main body of Woodworth Lake. I was drinking one of those 11% alcohol Dragon's Milk imperial stouts, and somehow I drank it very quickly.
Back at the cabin, I realized that I didn't want to seal up the new hole I'd made into the void beneath the bulkhead stairs. What if I had more styrofoam to dispose of in the future? Or what if I wanted to hide some treasure in there somewhere? A good plug would be a hole-saw-cut piece of two inch styrofoam glued to a steel plate that could be held firm against the riser by a couple rare earth magnets. But then it turned out that I had no suitable steel plate. This sent me down yet again to the dock, where I knew there were a few of the sorts of plates that carpenters use to strengthen connections in decks (if not, as I learned, docks). It was dusk as I was returning with the plates I'd found, and as I approached the cabin, I spooked an owl who had been in the dead maple tree along the north retaining wall. I wondered if that owl had been attracted by the antics of the deer mice trying to find a way back into the cabin. I went to look and saw one deer mouse still darting around all over the place. Perhaps his or her companion had already been devoured by an owl.
Next I broke out a four inch hole saw and used it to cut a hole in the very cent of the second riser of the stairway leading up from the basement beneath the Bilco doors. I figured the space beneath those steps was walled with yet more concrete, all of which would be isolated from frigid winter air by just the material of the steps themselves (all of which seems to 1.5 inch thick treated dimensional lumber). If I had access to that space, I figured I could dump all my styrofoam scrap in there and it would fan out to form an insulative layer on the concrete floor of the bulkhead. I wouldn't be able to insulate the walls of the under-stairs part of the bulkhead, but the heat loss in that direction was likely to be less, since both the inside and outside of the walls would be closer to outdoor temperatures than the bottom. Unfortunately, I happened to select a spot to drill that included some metal hardware than my hole saw didn't enjoy cutting through. Eventually the saw gave up and I was forced to finish cutting with a drill. Then I banged out the plug wth a sledge hammer. To my surprise, the part of the bulkhead beneath the steps didn't have a sloping floor (so as to mimimize the use of concrete for a space that didn't need it). The floor beneath the steps was completely flat and above it was a wedge-shaped space nearly the size of the part of the bulkhead above the steps. Filling that immense space with styrofoam wouldn't be easy, but I made a good attempt. I started with all the leftover chunks of extra spray foam I hadn't been able to bury when insulating the foundation wall and then moved on to other scraps, all of which had to be broken into strips no wider than four inches to fit through the hole. I also had a sheet of polyethylene foam that I was able to roll into a cylinder, force through the hole, and then unfurl on the other side. All of these measures combined ended up greating a thick layer of various foams on the entire floor beneath the bulkhead stair case.
As I was gluing together the riser plug I described earlier, I found another nearly-dead immature deer mouse lying spread-eagle on the cold basement floor. This one was so weak I gathered it up in my hands. It was still alive, but it felt cold in my hand. I took it around to the north side of the cabin and placed it in a bed of old leaves with some bird seed. Perhaps the insulated environment of the leaves would cause it to bounce back from its near-death experience, though I wasn't particularly hopeful.
For dinner, I made myself another frozen pizza. This one had an unappetizingly bluish-grey gluten-free crust, and I was only able to eat half of it before I'd had enough.
Neville and Ramona on the dock today. Click to enlarge.
Under the east decks, viewed from the north at night with two of the under-deck lights on. Maybe I'll store a bicycle under here some day, since the north-most 12 feet of the space is sheltered from the rain. Click to enlarge.
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