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DayCreek Journal

July 14 , 2002

The One That Got Away
I'm tellin' ya it was at least four to five feet long! You hear these stories all the time about the fish that got away and I'm here to tell you that my story is similar. It always happens when you least expect it, and to be sure there's never any real proof other than the story. So I guess you'll have to just believe me when I tell you that it really was that big.

My "long tail" begins with my return to Day Creek after the Fourth of July weekend. It was a hot and sultry day to be sure. With temperatures in the 90's and dewpoints in the 70's. It was your typical, hot and ugly summer day.

I decided to do other work besides mudding. It was just too dang hot by the time I got ready to work on the house. I decided to cut some wood in the shade of the house, but before I retreated to a cooler climate I thought I would soak a new bale of paper for the next morning.

I got the Bobcat out and carried a paper bale up the hill to where two barrels are located. One bale is for soaking and the other is for draining. Since I was gone for a few days, I had turned the 55 gallon drum used for soaking up side down to keep rain water from collecting inside.

I went to flip up the barrel and to my great surprise—there it was. It must have been in a serpentine slumber because it didn't move too much at first. It had a girth of several inches and a length at least four to five feet. There it was in all of it's viper beauty, a timber rattle snake.

Timber rattle snakes are known to exist in the area, although they had been brought to the brink of extinction (in the area) by farmers over the last 100 years or so. They are quite beneficial to farmers by keeping the rodent population in check, but snakes have a bad wrap that just won't go away. They are typically killed just for the fun of it.

So what did I do when I saw the snake? I ran...for the camera. I did one of my fastest sprints, but it was no use. By the time I returned, the big one got away. I even went as far to prod the grasses by the house looking for it, but it was gone.

Interestingly, the snake never rattled its tail at me. It just kind of gently moved away somewhere into the grasses. I am quite sure as to what I saw though since I was able to view one at a local state park a few years back.

Typically they don't stick around too long when they know humans are in the area, but you can bet that I've been doing an "Under-the-barrel check" every morning and I've got the camera close by it he/she shows up again. So far, just your friendly neighborhood toads have been under the barrels.

The last wall to the guest bedroom was completed this week. Five more to go to finish the exterior!


Snap, Crackle, Pop Revisited
Back in June of 2001, I reported that the walls were making some rather interesting sounds as the walls dried. Well, the sound is back and I'm here to report my findings as to what causes the sound.(Here's the link to the original report on this one year ago.)

For starters, the wood being used to build the external walls of the house is comprised of mainly red pine and cedar. The wood was cut to 16", stacked and left to dry for well over seven years now. There's no reason to leave the wood dry for this long—it just worked out that way. Ed McAllen had cut this wood back in 1995 and was surplus material never-to-be-used on his housebuilding project. I purchased this wood in the fall of 1997 and it has been kept dry in our pole shed since that time.

Before the logs are mortared into place, I prepare the logs by cutting them in half using a circular saw and beveling the edges with a Dremmel tool. From there, they get mortared into the wall within a week or two.

So what happens when the logs are cut into two? The wood is dry but by cutting the log, the wood begins to twist, expand and contract as temperature and humidity conditions change. Wood is never static. It constantly changes as environmental conditions change. This is why wood doors for example are made out of panels that are able to move within the frame of the door. The same holds true to laying a hardwood floor. The boards should be allowed to conform to indoor environmental conditions before installation. Expansion and contraction with all species of wood is a fact, more so with hardwoods then softwoods.

The sound that occasionally is heard in a drying wall also occurs with the blocks that are waiting to be mortared. It is just the natural movement occurring as the wood "readjusts" to it's new physical properties.

It is amazing though when an entire wall begins to make this sound. This occurs most often on low humidity days when humidity levels are down around 30% and the wood has been mortared one to two days prior. The occurrence of this is quite astounding with snap, crackle and pops occurring every few seconds or so.

Here's an example of the mico-checks. As the wood shrinks under low humidity conditions, the micro-checks will appear along with the sound of snap, crackle, pop.

Visually, it appears as small micro-checks within the log's face. These checks are only "skin deep" and do not extend through the log like a larger check that occurs in mostly round pieces. They do not pose any harm to the logs, but they do make a rather interesting sound as the dry out from the added moisture applied when the logs were mortared in place.


How many barn swallows can you fit in a nest? I can't tell if they were going for the world record, but these quite mature babies were all snug as a bug in their nest the other morning inside the house.