Fridays Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South
It Is Too Hot To Work
I don't know how I made it through last summer's heat down here without taking some time off. Yesterday I went in to work and opened up the back rollup door and started sanding. It didn't take me long to figure out that it was too hot to work. I think every bit of sanding dust that didn't make it into the dust collector or the dust bag on the belt sander was clinging to me. First off, I was covered in sweat in no time, and the dust in the air clung to me, which only makes you hotter.
I went home early, before lunch, even before what would usually be my morning break at 10 am. At 10 am it was over 90 and the humidity was supposed to be in the 80's, but it felt like it was 100%. People back in Minnesota told me I wouldn't be able to handle the heat, but you know, most days I can. And when I think about September through May with perfect working weather, these few really bad weeks in the summer become manageable.
What I'll have to do is start working at night when it cools down, and maybe add another AC unit to the shop. Also I think if I start carving again or drawing, that will be less physical and those types of work will be cooler.
I will tell you what really amazes me, and that is the prisoner work details you see all around the city. The guys on these work details are wearing black and white horizontal striped uniforms and they are cutting grass, weed whipping, and even shoveling dirt along the road ways. They are right out in the sun working, and I have a hard time in the shade with a huge fan on me. These guys are all smiles, and you can tell they are joking around with each other as they work. I guess being born in the South lets you tolerate the heat and humidity.
City workers down here are amazing, too. Tallahassee City crews build sidewalks and curbs. They pour concrete, they trim trees, and they fix anything that needs fixing out in this heat. I don't see many of them standing around leaning on their shovels either.
So, like Minnesota, Florida is perfect if you leave for a few months every year. Just down here it is the opposite months from Minnesota. One thing I can say about Florida though, you can have an eight or nine month stretch of nice weather, and that is hard to beat.
This weekend Wanda and I will be searching for some property to build a home on. This time we are looking along the southern Georgia/ northern Florida border east of Tallahassee, all the way to the ocean. People tell me that taxes and insurance are less expensive in Georgia. It looks like land prices are lower, too.
I want to stay at about the same latitude as Tallahassee. You get about 40 miles south of here and you start losing the oak and pine trees and start picking up the palm trees. Also the terrain becomes flat, whereas near Tallahassee and east you have rolling hills. In fact the word "Tallahassee" they tell me is an Indian word that means, "seven hills." This area and a bit north will remind you of Northern Minnesota. It has the trees, and on the back roads you will see deer and logging trucks. Of course the armadillos will tell you that you are in the South, as will the alligators.
I would like to build a house down here, and with eight months of nice weather I should be able too. I can remember warming up the shingles and taking a third of a bundle up on the roof at a time to put down in the bitter cold up North. You had to do that or the shingle would crack when you tried putting a nail through it. Also, I built my chimney with a fire in the wood stove so that the concrete wouldn't freeze between the bricks. You do what ever you have to when building and I'm sure there will be some hard things building down here, too.
If I can get somebody to do the foundation work, I'll be able to do the rest myself. You can get a lot done if you just keep on plugging away and work on something every day. There is nothing more satisfying than to sit relaxing in a home that you built for yourself. Plus you can do the added touches that you could never get a contractor to do. Simple things, like extending the headers over the windows to the next 2x4 on each side so when you go to put up the curtains you have something to screw into. They used to do that in all homes, but after WW II they decided they could save some money and shortened the headers so that they just covered the window itself.
I see houses being built down here and it scares me. Homes built right on the ground sitting on a slab that is about three inches above grade. You get a real heavy rain storm and those houses are going to get wet inside. You live in a house for a decade and you are bound to get a few of those storms. But it is cheaper to build like that. Everything I see on houses now is cheaper - the materials, even the labor. The only thing that isn't cheaper is the selling price.
I have talked to carpenters down here who are getting the same pay I got in 1976 in Minnesota. They seem happy with their wages, and their bosses are making a lot off of their labor. I see the same wages, but the price of the home is ten or even twenty times what the houses we were building cost. My first house back then cost 25K and a sheet of plywood was less than three dollars. It had seven plys and today many of the sheets cost over fifteen dollars, and they have only three plys.
I don't know what my house will cost, but I know it will be fun to build, and I am looking forward to it.
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