One project that I really wanted to get done this year was to build a new bridge over the creek. When Dave and Ellen lived here they had a culvert pipe bridge near the garage. It would get filled up with debris over time, so they would usually clean it out every spring. The renters did not clean it out, so the creek ended up washing over and around the road. It has changed its course quite a bit in the last 10 years. Ultimately, I would like to put in a new culvert pipe bridge, so that we could potentially drive up to the pond area, or at least get the riding lawn mower over there. But that project will have to wait until next year.
By far the best renter at Twin Springs was Laurie Fender, daughter of Louis and Angie Fender, who live just down Rocky Hill Road, and are good friends of Ellen and Dave. Not only did she put up really cool craft paper on the stairway wall, but she also built a wooden bridge over the creek. When Clare and I came to visit a year or two ago it was still there, but it seems to have gotten washed away at some point. This spring Dave mentioned that he had seen it, but by the time we moved in June, everything was so overgrown by the creek that we could no longer see it.
So the first step in building a new bridge was to figure out where to build it. This step involved wading through all the weeds around the creek, and clearing some of them out. It turns out quite a few of the weeds got pushed over in one section by the flood earlier this summer, so it didn’t require much clearing. I cleared this area out sometime in June or July, and found a place where I could do a hop, skip, and a jump over the creek. This provided a temporary way to get up to the pond, and to get to the spring where I dug the ditch. Originally I planned to build the bridge over this spot, but after clearing out the other side of the creek near the ditch, I decided that that would be the best place to build the bridge. It is very likely that this was the original location of the bridge anyways, seeing as how the old bridge was washed up there.
I decided to try to salvage the old bridge if possible, and after clearing out enough weeds by the creek, I was able to determine that the wood on the old bridge was not rotten. I tried to lift out together, but it was a bit too heavy, so I took it apart first. Then I started thinking about how to rebuild it. The original construction simply had two long boards on each side, hammered together to extend them, with cross pieces about 4 feet long. I recalled walking on it earlier, and thinking it was not super sturdy, so I decided to put a supporting beam in the middle as well. I found a long 2×9 (yes, it seemed to be about 9″) above the garage, which seemed like it would do the trick.
I noticed that a few of the cross pieces on the old bridge were attached with nails, but mostly with screws. I decided that screws would be a better choice. They hold better, and I am also not that great at hammering. Fortunately we have a really nice cordless drill that John and Jean Wolfe got us at the wedding shower they threw for us. This allowed me to construct the bridge right by the creek, instead of having to drill the holes where I had access to an electrical outlet. The drill also has a neat feature which makes it very quick and easy to switch from a drill bit to a screw bit. This way I was able to pre-drill a couple holes on one cross piece, then screw it in. I used 2 ” drywall screws that we had leftover from the drywall project by the refrigerator.
I managed to find about half a dozen boards about the right thickness and length above the garage, which I interspersed between the old cross pieces. I started off by laying out the cross pieces on top of the long boards approximately where I wanted them. Then I attached several cross pieces on one side to the two long boards. Once I had several cross pieces attached, then I added in the middle long beam for more support. I continued adding cross pieces one at a time, occasionally checking the distance between the long boards to make sure I was making the bridge fairly straight.
Once I had the bridge constructed, it was time to move it into place. For this I required some help, and Clare was more than willing to assist me. I got down in the creek and pulled on the bridge while she pushed, then we both pulled from the other side. We tried it out, and it did not fall down, though it was a bit unstable, and I had run out of cross pieces before finishing. I decided that it was enough for one day though. Last Saturday I went into town and bought some new 1″ x 6″ boards at Hanlon brothers to use as the remaining cross pieces. I was pleased to discover that I could fit them in my little Focus hatchback, by putting the seats down, and letting them stick out the passenger window a few inches.
After putting on the last few cross pieces, the final step was to dig some ruts for the long boards to sit in, which would help level the bridge out, and make it a bit more secure. The ruts seemed to do the job quite well.
Now when I am mowing the lawn I can see out onto the bridge and the field on the other side of the creek. The bridge will come in handy for getting the push mower and the wheel barrow over the creek. I will need the wheel barrow to help me collect the firewood I have been cutting down from the fallen oak tree in the forest. The only downside of the whole project is that it seems that Clare and I got poison ivy from putting the bridge into place. We have been taking lots of benadryl, and just suffering through it. Maybe next spring we will try making a soup of poison ivy and morels, as the doctor at the IU health center recommended.