Ranch Redux: A Ranch Done Wright

Adventures in Framing Part 1: Feathers Fly | July 24, 2011

Framing is the best of times and the worst of times.  It really is wonderful to see the walls go up so fast.  In a matter of hours Tim, J., and Charlie can frame a room.  I can see the spaces materialize as if by magic, but it is really stressful.  Every morning at 8:00 a.m. J. and Charlie come by to begin their work.  Immediately the compressor roars to life and the nail guns begin their tattoo.  I love the progress, but, not being a morning person, I hate the disturbance of the peace.

We really have it as good as it gets.  We have known J. for about a decade and he is a friend.  Charlie is a great guy too.  They are very mindful about the fact we live here and are conscientious about keeping the house secure and inhabitable.  I have heard horror stories about other people’s remodels so I know we have a good thing going.

There are times though when I think I am going to jump out of my skin.  Like when J. and Charlie cut the trusses.  Our house, pre remodel, had interior curtain walls.  The bearing walls are on the outside perimeter.  The thing that holds up the exterior, bearing walls are the triangular trusses running the width of the house.  In order to put up the second floor J. and Charlie have to cut the base of the trusses, remove segment of the triangle where the second floor will be, and reinforce the part of the trusses that will remain.  In order to do this they had to prop up the outside walls and remove most of the roof shingles and plywood.  This reduces the weight that the trusses have to carry.   I was pretty worried about this; afraid the walls would come tumbling down.  J. and Charlie kept on bolstering the existing roof until Tim and I were satisfied and then successfully cut the trusses. Miraculously what was left of the roof did not fall down.

Living without a roof, under the stars sounds nice, but it has its drawbacks.  Right now there is no rain forecasted for the next week or so, but if it rained we would be in deep bandini!  Also there are the mosquitoes.  We don’t have many mosquitoes in Southern California, but those we do have are enjoying a blood banquet here.  Then there is the noise.   During the day I don’t notice as much because we are making our own racket, but at night we can hear everything.  It actually is louder inside the house than outside.  The train sounds like it is coming down the street instead of a mile away.  We hear cars and planes and the boom, boom of the marines at Camp Pendleton practicing for World War III.  But the thing that makes me feel the most vulnerable, what keeps me up at night, is the fear of zombies.  Without a roof we are helpless in the face of an invasion of the undead.  As I lie in bed trying to sleep with the new sounds and mosquitoes buzzing I imagine hoards of zombies amassing, eager to feast on our brains!

Needless to say, I am not sleeping well these nights.  Last week I decided if I can’t sleep well, at least I can sleep long, so I went to bed really early.  At about 2 in the morning I heard an unusual noise and jumped up to investigate.  My nocturnal investigations are not uncommon and usually Moe, the cat, barely awakens from his slumbers, but this time Moe was really agitated.  He was pacing back and forth, looking out of the window, running up and down the temporary stairs.  I thought that he was upset because there was a cat fight outside that he wanted to get into it with the Calico Killer.  Then I heard the chickens squawk.  Chickens generally roost silently from dusk to dawn, so I knew something was amiss.  I threw open the back door and yelled toward the chicken coop not knowing what predator was trying to eat our sweet little pets.


Tim stumbled out of our room bewildered and concerned. “Get the flashlight Tim!  I think someone is eating our chickens!”  Tim ran back to get the flashlight and we both charged out the back door barefoot and in our pajamas.  The cat followed nonchalantly behind us.  The flashlight illuminated a huge possum sitting on the roosting bar in the henhouse.  I thought that was the end of the girls until I swung the light around and Toto, who we call “The Enforcer,” charged toward me, wings out, clucking like crazy. Her offense isn’t much of a defense, but it is impressive nonetheless.  “It’s OK Toto. It is only me.” I reached down and she, recognizing my voice, immediately quieted and let me pet her.   I think the girls have imprinted on me and think I am their big chicken momma.  I began the search for Yoshi and saw her cowering against the back fence.  Tim said quietly, “T. the possum is chewing on something.” I had a ridiculous mental image run through my head of a cartoon possum chewing on a cooked chicken leg. Luckily Yoshi was standing on two legs and I didn’t see any blood, but couldn’t tell if Yoshi was hurt or not.  I was pretty sure Toto was O.K.


So now Tim and I are faced with a dilemma.  We have a snarling, hissing possum high in the henhouse and the chickens are afoot.  We couldn’t just leave them like that.  Tim tried to get the possum out by hitting it with a rake, but it just wedged itself higher in the rafters.  Tim said “We need to dispatch this possum… We could shoot him.”  We are really close to our neighbors and if a shot rang out in the middle of the night five or six 911 calls would follow.  I could imagine the SWAT team surrounding the house, the helicopter circling, and the loudspeaker telling us to “come out with your hands up!”   We rejected that idea at once, not wanting to initiate such a ridiculous scene.  We have a ton of tools around; Tim said he could hack the possum to death with a shovel or something, but neither Tim nor I had the stomach for that, so we turned the flashlight off and two hens, two humans, and a cat waited for the possum to make his move.


“I think he moved.” Tim whispered.  Sure enough we heard rustling in the coop.  Tim handed me a rake. “Just in case he comes your way.”  The thought of an angry possum running scared in my direction was not comforting, but at least I had a rake.  The possum thumped down on the floor of the chicken coop, ran out the door, and disappeared into the honeysuckle. Success! The Chicken Defense Force met the enemy and prevailed!  We put the girls back in the henhouse, locked their door, and went back inside our house.


It was really hard to get back to sleep after waging (not so) mortal combat with an oversized marsupial.  While I was tossing and turning I went back to fretting about possible rain storms, mosquitoes, and of course impending zombie attacks.  If it looks like rain we can always staple up a tarp, and while we are so open we really can’t do much about mosquitoes except scratch.  What about the zombies?! I think I will take my friend Leah’s advice about the zombies: “keep the lights low and the noise level down, and hope they are sluggish.”


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  1. You are really getting a good training in framing here. Be brave! It looks great and will be safe and peaceful again. Are the chickens still laying through the trial?

    Comment by Sandra Andre — July 25, 2011 @ 6:08 pm

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We are embarking on an adventure turning a boring little ranch house into a modern style remodel.







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