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Spring & Summer 2007
Ontario Cottage Property Projects

Renovation of the cottage dock and adjacent decking was the major outdoor task in the warm months of 2007, as was covered pictorially on the previous page. In between and following it were several other items that Paul had wanted to accomplish, one in particular that had nagged at him for the last couple of years.

When Paul and his first wife Dagny bought the Harcourt Park property in 1965, their first task was to put in place a small prefabricated cedar cabin near the lake edge in which they lived while building the cottage in its current location. A two burner stove and oven was used for cooking/heating and an outhouse over a septic tank (planned to be in the correct orientation and position for later connection to the cottage) provided the young family (3-4 year old daughter and infant adopted son as of June) with toilet facilities during that first late spring, summer and autumn during which as much time as possible was spent there. Once the cottage was completed and moved into, the old cabin was used for storing boats and boating/swimming equipment; about 20 years later it was reduced/rebuilt to half its size by Paul's former son-in-law and that is how it has been for about the past 20 years. During this time the back of the cabin had dropped considerably, partly because of rotting due to constant incursion of the hillside earth and vegetation, causing a severe tilt to the entire structure. It was this deviation from level that Paul decided to correct during a 3 day break from the dock rework in mid-August, including freeing the back lower edge from further deterioration by being constantly against soil and vegetation.

4x4 from previous inside wall removal was put to use here4x4 and car jack in first phase of leveling cabinMeasuring tape serves as plumb to show deviation from verticalPaul used a couple different methods for raising the rear of the cabin. The first made use of the mainly rock face of the steep hill several feet behind the small building - and the car jack. Large flat rocks were placed under the cabin to hold it in a more erect position, but this technique was insufficient.

More use for that 4x4 from previous inside wall removalThat same 4x4 got more use as a lever on one corner under which additional flat rocks were placed.

Steel post atop car jack wedged under cabin roofPaul adjusts pilings on one endPaul continues to raise cabin for final underbeam placementMore was needed to get the entire back of the cabin up in order to slide a moisture protected 2x6 under the entire length that would rest on the newly placed "pilings" of flat rocks. For this stage the car jack and a piece of aluminum electrical conduit remaining from the original cottage wiring installation (also completely done by Paul) were used.

Paul adjusts coated beam; safety block still near his footPaul lowers the cabin onto the beam by lowering the jackMissing from these photos are the steps of Kitty coating the beam and working with Paul to slide it into place. Once that had been done (with the safety block in place, seen next to Paul's foot in photo to far left), only final tweaking of placement was needed and lowering of the cabin onto the beam.

Check of verticalHorizontal placement looks good tooPaul verifies cabin is nicely sturdyPaul was pleased with the cabin's state of level and sturdiness once the job was completed.

What we've done to reduce the likelihood of further deterioration of the cabin's cedar planking on the back - to date from being in the wet dirt and leaves for at least 20 years - is to dig a narrow trench along the back. The leaves and pine needles that collect in the trench then will be cleaned out at least twice yearly, thereby providing long periods when the wood is free from moisture.

At this point Paul went back to the dock work and completed the structural repairs and modifications. Once that was done - and before he started in on the decking in front and to the side of the cabin - he turned his attention to the mostly dead birch nearby. (Some sort of blight has attacked many of the birch in this part of Ontario over the past several years and finding dead ones is a common occurrence.)

2 small birch trunks eliminated firstHand sawing is great upper body exerciseFirst thing to do was to remove the 2 small trunks that had sprouted a few years earlier from the base of the birch which we decided 2 years ago was terminal. We decided not to keep these younger birch because we really wanted more sunshine to reach the blueberry bushes and promote their growth. We decided together that trying to take the birch down with one cut at the base was too difficult for a controlled fall in a direction that would do no harm to the surroundings. Therefore topping the dead tree first was the plan.

Rope over crook above Paul's headPaul begins cut for topping birchSafety belt in place for this tree cutting workWith only a few throwing tries, Paul got a nylon rope over a crook in the birch above where he planned to cut. Then with his safety belt in place, he began to saw the birch.

Paul tightens the winch for more tension on treePaul tightens the winch that he had connected to another tree further up the hill, before beginning the topping of the birch, to see if the birch will break, but some more sawing is still needed.

Paul gets his safety belt in placeAlmost hlf-way through trunkTension on tree trunk from winch lineEven though sawing through most of this birch did not take more than 10 minutes, Paul found it very awkward because it was being done over his head and while on a ladder.

More use for that 4x4 from previous inside wall removalAnother tightening of the winch, but the trunk is still not ready to break.

Measuring tape serves as plumb to show deviation from verticalJust a very few more passes of the saw for Paul to decide to remove his safety belt and descend the ladder once again. This time he was sure the dead birch top would go.

Measuring tape serves as plumb to show deviation from verticalMeasuring tape serves as plumb to show deviation from verticalTightening up on the winch and the top of birch now broke just as expected.

Dead birch top down adjacent to remaining trunkCloser view of newly downed dead birch topPleased Paul after completing topping of dead birch behind himThe birch top is down neatly without any damage, resting against remaining trunk, and Paul notes his pleasure. Now comes the work of removing it - and the remainder of the trunk.

Measuring tape serves as plumb to show deviation from verticalMeasuring tape serves as plumb to show deviation from verticalMeasuring tape serves as plumb to show deviation from verticalNow came the work of cutting up the topped portion of the dead birch. With the winch rope holding the larger end, Paul cut off pieces of the upper end. Then with Kitty's help (after snapping the photo to the left), the remaining topped portion was taken up the hill near the wood pile for final cutting.

Measuring tape serves as plumb to show deviation from verticalMeasuring tape serves as plumb to show deviation from vertical More use for that 4x4 from previous inside wall removal

Paul then retied the winch rope to the remaining birch trunk, sawed it mostly through and then pulled it down. Cutting the downed trunk, held in place on the hill by the winched rope, was the last of the work on this dead tree.

All that remained was to clean up the small twigs littering the area. About 5 hours work - all by hand almost entirely by Paul - and the removal of the dead birch was done. No need for a gym membership when doing tasks like this ;>)


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Initially posted 1/4/2008
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