This years construction activities started off with a renaming of both people and places.
As you may recall last years crew – otherwise known as the We Work For Food Construction Company or WWFFCC – who, in polite society go by the names of Lou and Roman or as I am fond of calling them, Rocky and Bullwinkle....
In keeping with a change of name from “Our Petersen Lake Property” to the “Ponderosa”, they now go by Hoss and Little Joe. Me on the other hand, given my duties as cook, fetcher of things and picker upper of dropped or discarded nails and screws had little choice but to take on the name of Hop Sing.
Our objective was to add a 12x16 foot addition onto the gazebo we built last year, cover both with a steel roof and then put in a water system.
It took some fast talking on my part before the WWFFCC finally agreed to build such a modest structure, but budget considerations together with the prospect of having to deforest much of the property to make room for their original design finally convinced them that smaller was better. As it was, Nakina Air would have to bring in two Turbo Otters full of materials just to build the scaled down version.
We left Toronto at 6pm with the intention of driving all night and arriving at the Ponderosa between 8 and 9am the following morning. Having loaded up the boat with coolers, propane, stain, power tools, luggage, extra gas, a chainsaw, 50 pounds of nails, a rain barrel and a generator, to name just a few of the things we were going to need, I realized once we were underway that my boots were taking up space in my garage rather than on my feet where I had originally planned to put them. After a quick stop at Bass Pro I was properly shod and otherwise ready for action.
The rain barrel was the basis of what the WWFFCC described as an “Innovative gravity based water system that would not only provide running water to the cabin but give you the capacity to take a shower, should you be so inclined.” Like all great ideas they depend very much on execution and realizing that the barrel was the only piece of this innovative system we had acquired so far, I leaned on the gas with the intention of hitting the Home Depot in Orillia before closing time.
100 feet of half-inch hose and several bags of valves and fittings later, I was assured that running water and a shower were only a few twists and turns of a wrench away.
The rest of the trip went without incident and our stops were confined to gassing up and taking on some breakfast at the “Timmy’s” in Hearst. We called Nakina Air once we arrived in Long Lac and agreed we would meet the plane at the Ponderosa around 9:15.
Once we arrived at the launch, Lou, or Little Joe as he is now called, insisted we could easily transport the three of us together with all our gear to camp in my fourteen-foot boat. Fortunately the water was calm because after we loaded up there was no more than an inch and one-half between the river and the gunwales. Our eight horsepower motor, while under considerable stain, dutifully chugged along and we arrived at 9:20, just five minutes after the plane had landed. Greg, who was at the controls of CF-MIQ remarked that when he fist saw us coming through the narrows into the lake, he was wondering what was keeping us afloat because it was not until we were fifty feet from shore that he saw we were actually sitting in a boat.
Hitting the beach like a military landing craft we scrambled onto the shore unloaded the plane and sent Greg on his way to pick up the remaining materials.
Saved by the….
Just before heading out Greg mentioned there were three guys he described as Mennonites back at the float base who expressed an interest in having a look at the Ponderosa. How they came to be there is another story, but my first thought was that if they were really Mennonites then maybe we could talk them into having and old fashioned barn raising. That way we could finish the addition in one day, leaving us with three entire days to putter around and do some fishing.
Greg also mentioned there was a 200-pound woodstove encased in a substantial wooden crate coming with the next load so some extra hands to help wrestle it onto shore would not go amiss. The deal was, provided there was room, and provided further that they would help to unload the plane, Greg’s Mennonites were more than welcome to come along.
Greg was back in about two hours with woodstove and Mennonites in tow. They got right to work and had the plane unloaded in no time at all, with the largest of the three pretty much carrying the stove ashore by himself while I dutifully stood in the water at a safe distance supervising the entire operation. While I was saying my goodbyes to Greg, I noticed the big guy hand both Hoss and Little Joe a piece of yellow paper.
Once the plane lifted off I ambled over to where they were standing staring intently at the yellow sheets. When asked what was so interesting they just about doubled over with laughter explaining that the pamphlets provided detailed instructions on how Jesus would save them, if only they would give Him a chance.
I’m not sure if people of the Mennonite faith are inclined to hand out pamphlets, but whatever faith they were, in their opinion Hoss and Little Joe were definitely in need of being saved. I found it interesting they had not bothered to have a go at me, the most likely reason being that it was easy to see that I was beyond help in either this world or the next. In any event they were informed I would be sleeping with one eye open seeing that I was sharing a cabin with two very dodgy and obviously unrepentant characters.
Gettin’ r’ Done
According to the weather reports the first two days were going to be relatively dry, so our plan was to get the walls up and the roof on, so if it rained as predicted we could finish off the interior in relative comfort.
Lou got on the chain saw and cleared out a couple of trees and by the end of the first day the floor was in and so were three of the four walls, including the windows.
That night the temperature dipped to just plus two and we awoke to a bright, sunny albeit frosty morning. It really sucks to be the cook on mornings like that, but I dragged myself out of my nice warm sleeping bag and got the coffee and breakfast started. The sun was just beginning to burn the mist off the lake, and I have to say it was the most beautiful morning I had yet to encounter at the Ponderosa.
Taking stock of our materials, not surprisingly we had too much of some things and not enough of others. As the weather was supposed to be good for the rest of the day, we made a list of what we needed and, after helping raise the fourth and final wall I was off to Geraldton along with several items we decided to return.
The round trip took about three hours and while I was gone, the last window had been installed and they made a good start on framing the roof. It turned out to be a bit trickier than we had originally anticipated given some of the angles and valleys that had to be constructed, but by the time the sun began to dip below the horizon, the frame was completed, most of the plywood and several sheets of metal roofing were in place. It was a goods day’s work by any standard.
As usual, that evening after dinner we sparked up a campfire to burn up all the unused bits and pieces, and sat around the fire talking about what had been done and what still needed doing while enjoying some brandy and cigars. The sky was filled with so many bright stars that it seemed like we were sitting in our own planetarium.
We slept in the next morning, not as a result of getting a little too friendly with the brandy bottle the evening before, but because we were pretty much spent having put in two twelve-hour days, one of them with virtually no sleep at all the night before.
There is nothing worse than an accurate weather report, especially when the report says it’s going to be crappy.
As it turned out we should have stayed in our bags for another couple of hours, because no sooner had Roman climbed onto the roof, the skies opened up and it began to pour. Wet plywood is no treat to walk on at any time, but put it on a slope and cover it with sheets of steel roofing and its every bit as slippery as ice. Not letting a mere deluge deter us, we soldiered on, while keeping a close eye on Roman just in case he decided to use the roof as his personal ski jump. Two hours later the rain pretty much stopped and we even caught an occasional glimpse of the sun from time to time.
The weather remained unsettled for the next day and one-half, with high winds and intermittent rainsqualls throughout both days, but by making one last push and working well beyond sunset on our last full day, other than the installation of the water system, we accomplished everything we had set out to do.
We moved into our newly completed addition that evening, thereby officially transforming the original cabin into a storage facility. Rather than sit around the evening campfire we set fire to the last of the construction rubble and watched it burn from the comfort of the new addition while huddled around the newly installed stove. When it began to rain no one said a word but I know that each of us was hoping that it would pour – after all we were warm and dry for the first time in three days – so bring it on Mother Nature!
We enjoyed a great night’s sleep without having to put on every piece of clothing we had before turning in and the next morning began the bittersweet task of breaking camp. Once you realize that its time to leave your thoughts begin to transition back to the “real” world and the positive energy you once had while setting up camp is replaced with a somewhat fatalistic resignation and urgency to get it over with so you can be on your way.
As this was the last visit for 2010 there were several winterization tasks that had to be performed. Fortunately because there is no plumbing system, all that needed doing was for some brave soul to wade out into the lake and untie the water hose from its anchor and drain both the pump and the hose. Despite my offers of various cash and other incentives, I was informed that since it was my water hose, I would have to deal with it. Last year we hit an incredible stretch of weather and had a dip in the lake every evening to wash off. This time around I don’t think any of us, other than when unloading the plane, had ventured to dip a toe into the lake – so far that is.
Well, let’s just say it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be and my exploits certainly provided the mornings entertainment for the crew.
We loaded up the boat, including a few additional items to be returned to the building center in Geraldton, and fortunately the weather gave us a bit of a break and we made it back to the launch without taking on any water. But our adventure was not quite over yet.
I had been having some problems with my power door locks for about a week prior to heading north. There was no need to use the fob because the locking mechanism developed this nasty habit of immediately locking all the doors once you exited the vehicle and closed the door. Not only that, when you were driving they kept clicking away trying to unlock. I called the dealership before we left and advised them that my locking system appeared to be haunted and that given where I was headed did not want to run the risk of being locked out of my vehicle.
Although their electronic technician was fully booked they assured me I could use my fob to unlock the doors and they would exercise the evil spirits from my locking mechanism when I returned home.
Lou, who likes nothing better than to back things into the water, grabbed my keys, plunged the trailer into the water, jumped out of my SUV and shut the door while leaving the motor running. As soon as he closed the door there was a sickening thud, as all four doors including the tailgate were now securely locked.
Picture the scene. We are in the middle of nowhere - the vehicle is running and parked on a steep slope - the back wheels are in the water attached to a trailer with a boat resting on it and – it looks like rain.
We just stared at one another while casting sidelong glances at the key chain and fob that was dangling from the steering column. This brand of SUV has a keypad on the door and I was trying to remember if the service technician had said it could be used to unlock the doors as an alternative to the fob.
I punched in the code and nothing happened. I immediately tried again, with the same result. Taking a deep breath and giving it several seconds to reset, I very deliberately and carefully punched in the numbers and to our great relief all the doors unlocked.
This trip wrapped up all the major construction work on the Ponderosa and plans were discussed during our twelve and one-half hour trip home for “WWFCC-Lite” in the late summer or early fall of 2011.
Lou described it as doing beer and cigar work. You get up in the morning, crack open a beer, light a cigar and just putter around some.
There is the water system to install and maybe a few other odds and sods, but unlike this year when the fishing rods never left shore, we would have plenty of time to relax, do some fishing and maybe even a bit of exploring.
Settling My Account
As you know WWFFCC stands for the We Work for Food Construction Company, so let me give you a sample of what was involved in settling my account.
- Banana and Macadamia Nut Pancakes with Breakfast Sausage and Pure Maple Syrup.
- Eggs to order with Naturally Hickory Smoked Bacon – Ontario Field Tomatoes and Fresh Fruit.
- Eggs to order with Hot Italian Sausage – Fresh Baked Bannock and Fresh Fruit.
- Chicken, Mushroom and Champagne Mustard Sausages with Marinated Hot Peppers.
- Sweet Potato Soup
- Smoked Turkey and Emmental Sandwiches with Ontario Field Tomatoes.
- 16oz. - 30 day Dry Aged New York Sirloins – served with Sautéed Mushrooms with Dry Sherry and a salad of Ontario Field Tomatoes with crumbled Blue Cheese and olive oil.
Wine – 2004 - Robert Biale – “Black Chicken” Zinfandel
- Jumbo Tiger Shrimp sautéed in Garlic Butter and Lemon –served with Mixed Grilled Vegetables.
Wine – 2009 – Mas Champart Rose
- Home Made Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs and Sausage – served with aged Parmesan Reggiano.
Wine – 2005 – Tedeshi Amarone
I didn’t hear any complaints, so I’m assuming that the type and amount of the payment was satisfactory.