Archive for October, 2012

Self-Reliance

October 21, 2012

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a famous essay about self-reliance. In his case he meant that people should follow individual pursuits and not be slaves to established norms. I my case it refers to doing something for myself I didn’t think I could.

The paint on the back and side of my cabin is peeling badly, as is the wood on the front of the deck. These places take the brunt of the winter snowstorms. I knew I had to get at least the front of the porch and the side of the cabin repaired before the winter set in.

My youngest son was staying with me in Scottsdale and was unemployed. Perfect! I thought. He can do the job and earn some money. The first time I set aside for the task he couldn’t go up to the mountains because he had an interview. The second time the same thing happened. (At least h got the job and is working.) I was upset! I didn’t want to shell out the cash for someone else to do it. I figured it would cost at least four or five hundred dollars. I’d already bought the paint and painting supplies, the water seal product, and the sandpaper. There was no choice but to do it myself. I had no idea how but thought it couldn’t be too hard. My seventy-five year old neighbor had done it last year by himself. I later realized his is a mobile home that was metal. Did that make it any easier?

I started out with the wire brush as he had. That didn’t make a dent in the peeling paint. I tried the electric sander my son had lent me. Nada. I found a tool in the shed that looked like a wide palette knife and scraped. That did the job but it was time consuming and hard to do.

I went back to Home Depot and bought coarser sand paper, hoping that would do the trick. No luck. I sat cross-legged style in front of the porch and scraped away. It took a while, but it worked the best. I did the same for the first quarter of the side of the cabin. I worked three hours the first day, sweating even though it was only seventy degrees. My knee was weak that night when I went out on a date with Railroad Joe.

The next morning I had a few aches and pains, but I soldiered on. I painted the railing on the porch the brown color I found in the shed. Then I proceeded to sand the sections of the front of the porch and the side of the cabin I’d scraped. I painted those green to match the rest of the house.

Annie patiently painting the side of the cabin

Then I set to scraping again. I stopped every ninety minutes for a water break and to do hand and finger stretches. That was a six hour day. It was hard work and I was starting to doubt I could complete the job. Donna fed me dinner. There was no way I could have bothered.

The next day I started with the easy work. I read the label on the Thompson’s water seal. It had to be fifty degrees out to apply. No problem. Then I read that in order to dry correctly, the temperature should be above forty degrees for forty-eight hours. Otherwise it would be tacky and oily.

In mid-October Munds Park is seventy degrees in the daytime and thirty-five at night. What was I to do? I had to seal it before the snow, and it wasn’t going to get any warmer. I reasoned that no one would touch the front of the porch or the side of the cabin. It might look silly if pine needles affixed themselves to the finish but I was willing to take the chance. I rollered on the water seal. Then I painted it on the porch railing. That was a mistake. It’s still oily and people are likely to touch it. Well, maybe it’ll dry by April.

After the easy work I hunkered down on a stool and scraped the rest of the side of the cabin. It was tough work because the part I was doing needed to be scraped four feet up the side. After three hours I took a break and had to talk myself into finishing the job. I persevered and worked another two hours. I sanded and painted the rest of the side of the cabin. All that remained for day four was to apply the water seal.

I collapsed in my lounge chair. The dogs leapt on my lap. I sat there for half an hour, regaining some strength. It took great effort to get out of the chair, both because I was exhausted and because it hurt.

I took some Advil and a long hot shower. Afterwards the dog crowded me, eager for their afternoon walk. I told them it would be abbreviated. They seemed to understand. That night Donna picked me and Laura up and we I went out to The Pinewood Restaurant (formerly The Lone Pine) for pizza. Although I could hard walk, I was beaming with pride because I knew I would be able to complete the job. I took a Tylenol PM that night.

The next morning I was stiff and achy in my legs, arms, and hands so I took some Aleve. It did the best job of getting rid of the aches and pains. I completed rollering on the water seal and surveyed the job. It looked good! I’m sure a professional, or even an amateur would find much to criticize, but my mountain home would be safe from the elements.

The Single Senior triumphed!