Roundrock now has a renewed shelter! Libby and I had all along intended to replace the old wind-torn tarp (the “hurt yurt” that Thingfish found so painfully phrased), but we had trouble finding a tarp of sufficient size that wasn’t a screaming FEMA blue. We didn’t want such a garish color in the middle of our woods (though it sits on house rooftops for months on end in some places). We would have settled for dark green, but our preference was for the chocolate brown since it is more of an all-season color for the Ozarks.
And so it was that on Saturday evening before our trip out to Roundrock, Libby and I were at one of the big box hardware stores asking about such a tarp. The clerk who helped us had lead us to the outdoor department and pointed to the bright blue tarps, none of which were large enuf even if they had been the right color. We were about to despair again when a second clerk suggested we might find what we sought in the paint department. This seemed just counter-intuitive enuf to make a kind of sense. These tarps are much more heavy duty than I would think a painter would choose for a drop cloth, but the paint department was on the way to the check out lanes, so it was worth a try. And, voila! There they were. Brown tarps in all the shapes and sizes Pablo could ask for, including one identical to what we had used before (which would mean that the existing posts and trees and general rope arrangements of the past could be repeated). And best of all, the one we selected was one-fourth the cost of the tarp we were replacing. If it lasted only half as long, it would still be a savings (which means more money for Bentonite, I guess).
This was the brainwork I mentioned in yesterday’s post. Given the opportunity to rebuild our shelter, Pablo thought he might try to re-engineer it a bit to correct its past major deficiency: the sagging ridgeline. If I was successful, it would require a bit of adjustment for all of the corner lines, and thus brainwork was to be called upon. This was not the primary reason for staging this task when we did, but certainly we could not have resorted to brainwork during our post-lunch stupor.
The main problem with the sagging ridgeline has been due to Pablo’s love of tying taut line hitches. This is a knot that allows you to snug up the rope to make it more taut, which is handy when tents and tarps are a-saggin. I had tied one at each end of the ridgeline (which was strung between two trees), thinking (stupidly, it turned out) that I had two chances to snug up the ridge line. What this really meant was that there were two chances for the ridge line to loosen itself, and when it came time to snug the hitches, I had to stand on a chair on the uneven ground just to reach them.
But Pablo’s mind is ever at work, and I had re-imagined the ridgeline in the intervening months since the failure. The two problems were that I had too many weak points and that I didn’t have good access to them. The solution was to reduce the weakness to only one point, and to position it in a much more workable place.
So what I did was snug the taut line hitch against the trunk of the tree on the right. This is not the proper knot for this kind of thing, but I wasn’t not going to untie something I had tied years ago and that had been in wind and rain and cold and heat ever since. In any case, with the knot against the trunk, it was not going to move at all, which was my real goal.
Instead of tying a knot at the other tree (on the left), I instead simply passed the rope around the tree, careful to go over a small branch so the rope wouldn’t slide down the tree. I then lead the rope down to the ground at the back of the tarp where I had sunk a steel fence post many years ago. It was here that I tied the taut line hitch. It is still a relatively weak knot under the circumstances (given the acreage the tarp has and the resulting wind and snow-load stresses it endures), but it is one that I can snug anew each time we visit the tarp since it is low to the ground and I can bring more force to bear on it.
The plan seems to have worked. The new ridge line stayed high over our heads the whole time we were under the tarp. (In the past we had to stoop when we walked under the tarp.) We still need to adjust the corner ropes to flatten the tarp more. I think I need to turn the whole tarp a few degrees clockwise so it straddles the ridge line a little better, and in the coming months, Libby and I will work on that.
The tarp itself is a bit of a wonder as well. The top, as you can see, is chocolate brown. But the underside is silver. (Not very discernable in the photo, I’m afraid.) At first I thought this was done as a winter survival device. Someone trapped in a snowbound camp might sit on the silver side of the tarp (on the ground, of course) and get some solar gain from the reflected heat. Okay. I didn’t anticipate a need for that, but it was good to file in the back of my mind. But it was something unexpected that turned out to be the real silver lining of the silver lining.
The area under the tarp is much more bright as a result. The tarp gives us sufficient shade from the sun, but the resulting light beneath it allows us to see each other and the food we are eating and so forth. I was surprised at what a difference it was, and the old tarp now seems cavelike compared to our new situation. And I suppose if I were under the shelter at night with a lantern burning on the table top, I would benefit from the silver ceiling even more significantly.
It’s a little hard to tell from the photo, but there are three chairs under the tarp. Two are for Libby and me, but the third one, well, that’s for you!
So my brain benefited from my brain work. What lay ahead for Libby and me was some muscle work, but I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.
Festival of the Trees – If you have blogged about a tree you love, or if you know of a blogger who has made a treeish post, there is still time to submit it for the first ever Festival of Trees.
- Dog-day cicadas begin to sing.