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DayCreek Journal

April 27 , 2006

Getting to the Root of the Matter

Spring is now in full bloom and it's time to get back working on the house. Last fall I dug out a good-sized cedar—roots and all. This tree is to be used at the base of our staircase as one of the railing support posts. I want it to look like the post grew right into the floor by leaving some of the roots flanging out from the base.

The trick is to make a cut along the trunk that cuts the tree (roots included) perpendicular to vertical plane of the tree. How was I going to mark and cut the bottom? I thought about this a while and came up with an idea that worked. I hung the tree from one of the internal support beams in the house. This made the entire tree into a plumb-bob. I then took out my laser level and gingerly marked a plumb line all the way around the base of the tree. This could have also been accomplished with a water level, but since I have a laser level, I went the high-tech route.

Once the base was marked, I used a hand saw and cut through the entire base with it. A chain saw would have been too rough on the roots and probably would have made a mess of the tree. I was amazed how well this came out by just using a hand saw. (Power tools don't work for everything.)

Now that the base post is ready, I'll need to get creative with the staircase. Our floor space is limited and trying to fit a straight staircase into the area is going to be tight. My preference is for a round, spiral staircase, but Jo likes the straight stairs. Straight stairs are much better for carrying large objects to the second floor, but in our house we have a back door on the second floor and furniture can be moved through that entrance. I may try one more time to convince Jo that a spiral staircase would be better, but I've tried time and time again to convince her and it hasn't worked. This is about the only major thing (so far) that we have disagreed on while building the house. If by some stroke of fate I can get her to agree on the spiral staircase, I have another idea for the tree post so it won't go to waste.

Father(s) Update
First things first. Jo's father is now living back home once again. He is able to walk with the assistance of a four-prong cane and is able (for the most part) to take care of himself. One of Jo's brothers lives with him, but goes to work during the day. We were concerned how this was going to work out, but so far so good. If you recall, his stroke occurred in November and we are now approaching the time in which he has regained about as much use in his limbs as he ever will. His progress after the stroke has been good, but we wish it could have been better. In any case, his life (and ours) is returning back to a more normal pace.

On my side of the fence, my father is now living at a retirement community outside of Chicago. It took quite a bit of research to find the best place for him. Every retirement community has a different rate structure which makes comparing these places like apples to oranges. He is quite happy now in his new digs and I just signed the papers today to put his house up for sale. I will be so happy when this is all over. Going through 40+ years of "stuff" in his house was quite an adventure. I did find my old toy chest though with all sorts of pasted on photographs from the Wisconsin Dells (early 60's era). It certainly brought back a lot of memories. On the other hand, my brother Jim never found the shoe box of baseball cards that would have fetched a pretty penny. It's really too bad since his boys won't have enough money to attend college now. (Just kidding...maybe.)

That's about it for now, I'll write more about the stairs in upcoming journals. Please stay tuned for a second journal devoted to my visit to Buena Vista Grasslands in Wisconsin. I was there just a few days ago to photograph Prairie Chickens. It was quite a sight!

A baby Great Horned Owl on the ground. (This time of year, baby owls begin to venture out on branches and sometimes fall to the ground. They are however, capable of climbing vertically in trees. This particular owl climbed back up the tree where mom could keep an eye on him/her.)