Day 382: Shopping spree.

If I thought I’d save a bunch of money on gasoline with my Prius C, it’s nothing compared to what I’ll save on lumber. I can’t fit a single 2×4 into my pretty new ride.

I assumed I’d get a roof rack for the Prius and still be able haul a few of a homestead’s necessities (plywood, a section of stockade fence,…). No such luck. It turns out there are air-bags mounted all along the sides of the roof that won’t take kindly to having a bolt pushed through them.

I moused around and asked around and it looks as if my choice comes down to a clip-on affair that catches the edge of the door opening. Etrailer.com was the only place I found that claimed to actually have mounting clips designed specifically for the Prius C. Somewhere between here and Missouri there is now a UPS driver making his way to Greenville to support my 2×4 habit. Home Depot and Lowes are providing armed escorts for the UPS truck to make sure it arrives safely.

In the meantime we have Jean showing up tomorrow to help with some of the more demanding chores (like ones where you have to close your fingers all the way without screaming from arthritic joints!). It would be nice if we had some of the material we needed actually on site when he showed up.

Delphine and I rose early this morning and hopped into her brand spanking new Prius C and got 68 MPG (68!) on our way to Home Depot to be first in line to rent their truck (they have only one). On the way I called the local Shelter Logic dealer to see what his hours were. Voice mail. No hint of whether or not the store would be open while we had the truck. I had checked their web site earlier and it also had no hours posted so I left a message expressing my disappointment.

Two sheets of plywood, sixteen 2x3s, fifteen 40-pound bags of wood pellets, a 50-pound bale of wood shavings, three remarkably heavy twelve-foot 2x12s, four eight-foot pressure treated 4x4s, screws, nails, and a partridge in a pear tree. (Okay, we decided to skip the partridge for now because our pear trees are just getting buds.)

As we stood in line to pay for all the things that wouldn’t fit into my Prius (did I mention 68 MPG?) I got a call on my cell phone. It was the Shelter guy. He wasn’t usually open on weekends but he’d be happy to meet me at his store in an hour.

Delphine went back to Greenville to get Jean started and I drove to the Shelter dealer in a truck overflowing with big things. One 10 x 16 shelter with extra duty canvas please. The dealer muscled four large cartons on to the growing mountain in back of the truck.

Jean and I unloaded the truck and I started him in on using the 4x4s to create a level base for the shelter. With all of the land we have, finding a relatively flat surface big enough to hold a 10 by 16 structure is surprisingly difficult. We decided on a space six feet in back of the barn. One row of 4x4s would be dug into the ground and the other would float eight inches in the air (on rocks) to compensate for the slope.

I brought the truck back to Home Depot (8 MPG) and Delphine took us back to Greenville (58 MPG). I know. You’re wondering why we got 68 MPG going to Home Depot and only 58 MPG coming home. It took me a little while to figure that one out myself. Turns out Greenville is about 1100 feet higher in elevation than Nashua. Going is always more efficient than coming.

Back to the shelter. I laid out a piece of plywood on two sawhorses and we began pulling parts out of boxes. Gray steel tubes by the dozens, bags and bags of bolts and nuts, strap tighteners, heavy plastic coated canvas, mean looking augers – and an instruction booklet.

The basic idea is that you’re building a metal frame over which you’ll stretch a waterproof canvas using nylon strapping and ratchets. There are so many similar-looking parts that following the directions is critical. It might be even more critical if the instructions were accurate.

The first few pages show drawings of a four piece rounded arch of pipe. For no particular reason, after that the instructions show drawings of a five piece arch – as if we forgot to insert a section of pipe at the top. Unfortunately, the phantom piece shows up after you’ve screwed together the whole structure so that you get to spend fifteen minutes with this sick feeling that you’ll have to take it all down and start over. A small amount of encouragement comes from searching the boxes for the missing sections and not finding them. Either the manual is wrong or we’re missing parts. We won’t know until we put on the canvas.

I suspect the sick feeling from the imaginary missing part was engineered into the instruction booklet to prepare you for the fact that you will indeed have to take apart most of what you assembled because the instructions fail to mention that an overhead ridge pipe (not shown in the first several pages but definitely in the boxes) has to be added to the top (remove the top bolt and replace it with a longer one to hold the ridge pipe) and all those crossbars you installed on the sides (ten of them) have to be removed one at a time and threaded through a pocket in the canvas.

At this point I divided the labor with Jean: he took apart the crossbars to thread them through the canvas and I sat on a plastic chair and watched him do it – telling him what a good job he was doing from time to time to make the wasted effort seem not so disheartening. (It’s tough being a good manager.)

We got the frame up and one side of the canvas before we decided to call it a day. The weather tomorrow is supposed to be as nice as it was today. We’ll see.

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