Friday, February 29, 2008

All in A Day’s….

Spring is lurking in the woodpile, and so it behooves me to get a cold frame knocked together, to protect the tender seedlings as they grow. I have a shed that I “converted” to a greenhouse -- meaning I cut out a 4 foot square of the opaque plastic wall and “installed” (duct taped) a clear plastic square in the opening -- but the shed gets too chilly at night, and from my reading of the various master gardeners, a cold frame is what will snug up those tender seedlings, so that the slugs and grubs have some fresh greens.

I assume there are places where this kind of thing is straightforward; where one has a spare glass window leaning against the garage wall, along with some 10” wide shelving board and a bunch of nails, and just bangs the thing together on the spacious workbench. But I live in that other place -- the Oz of Projects, where unexpected houses (or at least large objects off the top shelf) keep falling on my half-done projects, and where the Powers That Be tell me to “Go Away” (usually in a puff of noxious smoke as another power tool dies)… so I wasn’t exactly expecting this to be simple. But I wouldn’t have settled in the country if I wasn’t a hearty homesteading type, right?

For some reason, the guy before me decided to store all the old windows up in the attic (perhaps dreaming of a dormer greenhouse??). The main attic hatch is in the ceiling of the narrow back hallway, and a ladder the only way up. The wooden cover was at least hinged on one side, which made lifting it somewhat easier, but since I couldn’t reach it until I was on the ladder, and it had to be lifted up in order to rest the ladder… I had the first conundrum. I can only speculate that the guy had a stepladder -- and I only have the 24’ aluminum extension kind… It was like maneuvering a giraffe into a closet. I had been up in the attic once, to attempt to store my Xmas stuff and to see what condition it was in… and almost didn’t get out, because the ladder slid away along the hall when I tried to get back down. This time I decided I’d position it cross-wise to the hall, such that there was no place to slide.

This worked, in a way… but with a 2 ft. wide hallway, the first couple steps up were taken on tiptoe (an interesting feeling on a ladder rung!) because that’s the only way I’d fit between ladder and wall. Once I got halfway up, I had a bit more room to maneuver, and was able to push the solid wood hatch (the man was preparing for a bomb attack, I swear!!) up to a resting position. If I were getting some lightweight Xmas balls down, life would have been easy. But single-pane (non safety-glass) windows with solid wood trim have properties of being both heavy and fragile… But pioneers had encountered much worse, I told myself! I could manage this! I eased the window as close to the opening as I dared, and eased myself over the edge, finding the top rung with one foot. I descended one-handed down an almost-vertical ladder, 4ft.-square heavy glass window in the other, congratulating myself on not breaking any glass. Suddenly, my butt encountered the glass of the framed print I had forgotten to take off the wall… with just enough pressure that I could picture an entirely different pane of glass slicing up my butt!

Writer that I am, the words “Pain of Glass” wedged itself in my mind as I tried to ease the window down to the floor without bending too much at the waist, or extending my butt backwards or sideways so that the ladder didn’t shift (believe me, this is ballast that could scuttle a ship!)… there was No Place to Go But Down, I told myself… the wood frame touched the floor, then I aimed the top edge toward the wall -- it touched lightly enough, but then slid down so that it lay across the floor -- where I had to step off. I came down the last couple rungs on tiptoe, praying my ankles wouldn’t give out, stepped sideways over the window, pulling some upper ligament as I tried to maintain a balance of weight on the ladder, and managed to get to flat ground with no glass broken… and that was the first piece of the cold frame! I went and sat down for a half hour, nursing the pulled ligament and my trembling legs (I hadn’t realized that climbing a ladder several times in slow motion is the Nautilus equivalent of that machine with the cushioned ankle pads -- and my full 170 pounds of little black iron bars attached!)

more tomorrow….

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