It’s the mantra of rural living: Before snowfall, before snowfall…
Before snowfall, I’ll rake the leaves. Before snowfall, I’ll turn the garden. Before snowfall, I’ll collect firewood. As the summer winds down, the intensity increases. As the days grow shorter, the list grows longer.
Until, one day, a blanket of white falls, wrapping itself around you, and your outdoor chores are abruptly, thankfully finished for another year — whether you’re ready or not.
This year, our list includes just one, big to-do: Put roof on.
We’ve been blessed this summer with exceptionally clear skies and sunshine. Since July, we’ve worked steadily from the ground up, placing our basement timbers and, later, our main floor timbers, both with the help of friends. When it comes to the upstairs beams, we’ll hire a crane — hopefully in the next week — to hoist the heavy eight-by-ten hemlock timbers to the top of our upstairs posts.
Things were moving along splendidly. Then we checked the weather forecast this morning.
As it turns out, the 14-day forecast promises a solid lineup of rain, sleet and snow. We kinda’ panicked. We had, it appeared, taken our clear sailing for granted.
Before the roof goes on, there are many other things that need to happen. Each timber needs to be sanded and stained, something that could be a full-time job in itself. Once in place, the timbers need to be plumbed and levelled. Then joists are installed. Then sheeting. And repeat.
In fact, I recently commandeered a travelling writer that I met at writers’ retreat to come sand timbers for a few days. I’m sure Michelle will never know the extent of my gratitude that she was willing to sleep in our garage at night and run a brush sander all day.
House building is like a full-time job outside your full-time job, which means a lot of other things fall by the wayside. Take, for example, updating blogs. Also on the hit list are recreation, socializing and, some days, cooking. But if this is the worst house building has to offer, I think we can handle it.
If all had gone according to plan, we would have stacked and plastered our bales already. In hindsight, as the thermometer, even in September, dipped below freezing, we realized that we might have overestimated our northern window for plastering. Although we’re behind schedule, all things happen for a reason. We’ll wait for the long, warm days of late spring to plaster next year.
But having a roof isn’t really optional. We currently have more than 300 bales hunkered down under a tarped frame. While it keeps the rain off, it flaps in windstorms like a pterodactyl taking flight. It’s definitely not going to survive a northern winter. With the roof on and our bales safely stowed beneath, then we can finally relax and look to our winter to-dos: laying decks, framing windows, building interior walls. The list is long.
And, hopefully, I’ll also get to shut down the garden and rake some leaves.