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:
   floating floaters
Saturday, September 25 2021

location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, NY

Getchen and I got up at 8:00am this morning so we'd be able to spend more time with my relatives before once again driving up to the Adirondacks. While Gretchen made pancackes, I fried up a whole package of vegan LightLife Smart Bacon (my favorite fake bacon) with onions. (Christine doesn't like mushrooms, and I don't think we had any anyway.) Then Carol went with Gretchen when she took the dogs on a brief pre-roadtrip walk while I cleaned up the kitchen and Christine wondered how she might help. "Don't worry about it," I said. We actually left our house before Carol and Christine did, telling them how to leave the front door and the anti-insect netting. For most of the ride to Albany, though, I fretted about having possibly left the little wire cage off the stove knobs, where they keep Celeste the Cat from accidentally lighting a burner when she's walking around up there (something that has happened at least twice). I also fretted that the anxiousness of worry about the stove would sap my ability to enjoy the cabin. What do other people with obsessive-compulsive tendencies do in this situation. After a couple hours, though, I was able to nearly shelve my anxiety, especially since there was then nobody I could reasonably call to check in to make sure the oven knobs got covered. {It turns out I didn't need to worry, because I actually had covered the oven knobs with the anti-Celeste cage.]
As we often do, Gretchen and I stopped for provisions at the Honest Weight Food Coop. And since we were driving the Subaru, we didn't need to worry about finding a charger. Happily, Honest Weight actually had an Asian tofu sandwich this time, though mine was "the last one." There was a sign at the counter saying that "due to labor shortages" the burger bar was closed, so a Beyond Burger was noth an option, though Gretchen was able to get a TLT.
Before getting to the cabin, we stopped at an old factory in Gloversville to pick up the dock floats I had ordered. In that factory, along with huge rooms of rusting file cabinets and all sorts of things was Kadco, a specialty dock supply company. I'd ordered four floats some days ago and, though Kadco is normally only open Monday to Friday, the woman I communicated with said the owner would be there today until about 4:00pm so I could pick up my floats. I found the owner in his office, which looked like something out of the Chernobyl miniseries. He was an older gentleman with what sounded like an Australian accent. He told me to drive around to the back, and so I did, and sure enough, there huge piles of dock floaters back there. These tend to be bulky black rectangular solids filled with some material significantly less dense than water so that they can support denser objects (such a docks made of wood) floating in water. I'd thought about making my own dock floats out of plastic barrels filled with foam or something, but it's considerably less trouble to buy a dock float, which have flat surfaces and come with mounting tabs. My original vision was to just put the float between the joists of my dock and then lay my decking across it. But most floats are at least 24 inches wide, which is wider than the inter-joist space of a dock with joists on two-foot centers (as mine was). So I'd ordered four floaters, each having the same dimensions: two feet by one foot by four feet. Those each provide a buoyancy of about 380 pounds, which would give me a total buoyancy of 1520 pounds. I didn't do much math on the topic, but in my mind, that seemed sufficient for a twelve by ten foot deck.
The dock supply guy was a little skeptical of me hauling the four dock floats with my Subaru. But we easily tied three to the roof rack and put a fourth in the back. By then, Gretchen had shown up, and she was a lot more conversational than I was. She told the dock supply guy about my dock, and he offered to do the math on what buoyancy we would require. (At this point, I was just doing an experiment and would've been happy to see how well it floated with the floats I'd bought and then adding more if I needed more.) So back in his office, the dock supply guy ran the numbers and determined that we had about half the floatation we needed, given the recommended buoyancy of 25 pounds per square foot. He recommended we change the floaters to the four foot by four foot by one foot variety, though initially he said we could try the floats I'd bought and bring them back if they weren't sufficient. Gretchen didn't see the point of that, since clearly the buoyancy they would provide wasn't going to be enough. So I drove back to the warehouse and offloaded the floaters, the dock supply guy came up with a different price for the bigger floaters, and said he'd deliver them for free at about 5:00pm today. That was a good deal, so we said sure, bill us for the difference.
Obviously, as it was becoming clear, the dock supply guy knew a lot about docks and I didn't know all that much, something Gretchen kept shooting me stern glances and making comments to emphasize. It's true; I usually approach all subject areas involving technical skills as if I can figure it all out on my own and as if the experts don't have any special knowledge. This is, or course, arrogant and wrong, something Gretchen is quick to point out, especially in cases like this where my intuition had so clearly led me astray. Still, this I was feeling embattled and I kept wanting to get the out of there to somewhere less stressful. But we had a lot to learn from the dock supply guy, so I opened my mind and learned some things. Suddenly it was clear that the floaters aren't supposed to be between the joists of a dock; they're supposed to be screwed to the bottom of the dock joists, with nothing but air between the joists themselves. And, here's another very important thing that I hadn't known: the forces on a dock are unlike anything experienced by a terrestrial deck (such as an outdoor deck or a house's floor). Normal deck fastener technology is not strong enough and the action of the water will gradually pull out lag bolts and joist hangers a little at a time with each arriving wave. The initial structure can be built with such fasteners, but then the dock must be reinforced at the corners with special angled steel pieces designed to brace the corners from both the inside and outside, all of it held snug with carriage bolts.
When Gretchen and I arrived at the cabin, there was no evidence of the nearly $700 worth of larch decking I'd ordered, though there were a few parcels on the front stoop. While getting them into the house, Gretchen found the larch neatly stacked on the east deck near the white Adirondack chairs. We then drove out to Woodworth Lake Road, where Gretchen weed-wacked around one of our three street number signs and I loaded three parcels left there at the roadside (presumably by a delivery guy who didn't know there was a house at the end of our 800 foot driveway). The parcels included an outdoor table, two high quality plastic Adirondack chairs, and a steel fire pit. But before dealing with any of that, I loaded the larch onto the roof of the Subaru and drove with the dogs to the communal dock on Woodworth Lake to offload it all (along with two concrete blocks, two 80 pound bags of concrete mix, an eight foot four-by-six, a 42 inch crow bar, and various other things such as washers, bolts, and two Hazy Little Thing IPAs. Meanwhile Gretchen had hiked through the woods down to our dock site, launched the canoe, and was rowing towards us across the lake.
I managed to move all that stuff across the lake in own two trips. The heavy cargo forced the canoe low in the water and seemed to give it a lot of inertia, which made steering it difficult. Because of how oddly the canoe was behaving, I followed close to the shoreline instead of crossing the middle of the lake, whose depth is over 60 feet in some places. Remember, I swim poorly at best.
After unloading all the cargo and putting the weather-sensitive items under a tarp, I walked back to the cabin. Gretchen, who had driven back to the cabin, had already started assembling the fire pit. I helped her finish that and then, once that was done, I put together the outdoors dining table (which will live in the screened-in porch. The directions for the table called for the fasteners to be installed loosely at first but then tightened at the end, a procedure was didn't follow rigorously enough for Gretchen. After my poor performance buying floaters for the dock, she had new skepticism for my ability to do anything right.
I then put together the Adirondack chairs. Their solid planks of plastic looked like they had the potential to survive prolonged periods outdoors.
At around 6:00pm Gretchen and I walked with the dogs back down to the lake and paddled across it to the communal dock to pick up the bigger dock floats left for us (as he said he would) by the dock supply guy. I paddled in the canoe with both dogs and Gretchen went separately in a kayak. The docks were too bulky to put in the canoe, so I lashed them together into two units of two floats each, with one float riding on top of another so as to minimize water resistance. I then paddled back toward our dock towing them behind me. Meanwhile Gretchen saw someone on the shore over at Pyotr's parcel, so she paddled over there and bummed a fire started from him, as we had no way to start a fire otherwise. While there, she noted how beautiful his lean-tos and other structures were. Gretchen also noted Pyotr's bespoke Adirondack chairs, which he'd made extra wide (the ones I'd put together earlier were only 19.5 inches wide, which isn't much more than a coach airline seat).
All that water resistance definitely slowed my crossing of the lake, though I felt safe crossing it in the middle given all the floation that would be available in the case of capsizing. Gretchen helped me wrangle one of the floats onto shore before complaining about her back, so I lashed the floats to the rudimentary dock to deal with further tomorrow. In the course of all this, I mentioned the possibility of not building the dock upside down (as the dock supply guy had recommended) and this caused smoke to come pouring out of Gretchen's ears. Had I not learned my lesson about not listening to experts? But the idea of flipping over a dock after building it when its floats alone weigh 200 pounds seemed impossible.
I should mention that the lake was about four inches deeper today than it had been when I'd last seen it on Sunday. This was at least partly due to recent rainfall, which had activated various dormant streams, including one emptying into the lake between our new dock and the "tree dock." [REDACTED]
Back at the cabin, I gathered some firewood from the near-end of the Lake Edward Trail and Gretchen retrieved some of the enormous amount of cardboard she'd stashed under the screened-in porch, and we used this to build a fire in our new fire pit. We sat there in the dark in our new, somewhat-narrow Adirondack chairs, talking mostly about my relatives and drinking from a small bottle Carol had given us of genuine Alaskan strawberry-rhubarb wine (such a quintessentially DeMar gift!). It tasted like perfume, but I gradually grew to like it. Gretchen kept mentioning how obvious it was that Carol was one of my relatives. She looks exactly like a younger version of my mother and she has that same awkward social incompetence about her, perhaps tempered a bit by introversion. And there seems to be an undercurrent of DeMar mental illness in there as well. Christine, by contrast, seems well-adjusted and socially skillful. But I also know that her brother, much like my brother, is disabled by mental illness. Some form of this mental illness seems to be in all of us DeMars, with some of us having relatively small amounts of it while in others it is either concentrated or imperfectly defused.
At frequent intervals, the cardboard fire would die down and we'd have to add more. At one point I added a stiff piece of masonite to the fire, which filled the air with the scent of chlorine, giving us an indication of at least one inorganic component that goes into it.

pictures taken by Carol later sent to me by Christine

Me washing dishes.

Me with Gretchen in the kitchen frying faux bacon while pancakes cook on the griddle.

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