Saturday, January 31, 2009

Is Anybody Out There?

Hey! HEEEYYY! Ya'll there?! Dang! Did my design suck that bad?? Geez, I quit talking about the Switchman and ya'll bail on me! Ha! Don't ya'll make me do a meme or something.
Now, I realize most people like traditional stained glass more than contemporary but ya'll trust me on this one; it will look great when done. It's hard to really tell what it going to be like when it's just a line drawing with no color. But I will not be offended if someone says they don't like it.

So's everybody busy today or just got the doldrums? Oh, I know. Everybody's doing their taxes. Yep. Started mine last night.

Well, alright...if ya'll aren't going to talk to me I'm going to go make my full-size pattern for my window.

*Pink Floyd

Echos Round The Sun

This is the design I'm thinking about using for the window in the bath. I came up with this myself, sort of. I combined elements from several windows I have seen to make this. The BFA has been telling me that he would come up with something but he is just too busy to fool with it and I can't wait any longer. I am going to use a lot of clear, textured glass to maximize the amount of white light that comes in for solar gain but am going to put some lightly colored glass in it too. Some light blues and yellows, stuff like that. The window is about 32"x 38" I think. Something like that. I am also going to try to use glass and materials that I already have to make the window. I am going to have to buy a little bit but not much.
So, what do ya'll think? Of course, the house is quiet contemporary in design so I wanted to go with a modern looking window. The top most arched area will be a light blue, to symbolize the sky and the wavy streak running down through the area will be pale yellow to symbolize the sunlight coming in. The other lines and blocks stand for the structure of the house etc.
I might can even get started on this today. I have the table and materials all ready. I need to cut some firewood today and finish that freaking patch in the bathroom wall (I'm almost done) and paint that. Of course, there is always 27 million things to do here so I just pick the most relevant and try to finish that. I am very close to having the bath absolutely, completely done. I think that will help my feelings immensely. After the bath I need to go back out and start working on exterior projects. If I could just clone myself about 3 times.... Eeeew, on second thought, I wouldn't wish that on the world!
Hope everybody is having a good weekend and I'll try to be back soon. Not a lot going on here; kinda boring. Maybe I need to go out tonight.
*Paul Weller / don't care for his music but liked the title

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Common Disaster

We've all been kinda holding our breath at work, not knowing how the current state of the economy is going to affect our industry. Generally speaking, construction is fairly heavily impacted by such. Residential construction is usually the worst but we in commercial work are still tossed about at times by the storms of the financial world. It is sort of like the difference between being out on the sea in a sailboat or a ship. When the storms get big enough though, even the ships are rocked and we are now beginning to feel the first strong winds of the tempest over the country.
Yesterday morning the superintendent called us all into the office before we got tools out; said he needed to talk to everybody for a minute. We all knew right then something was up. This boss is a quiet guy and never stops us from our routines at work unless something is up. My first thought was several of us were about to be laid off but that wasn't it. Starting next week we are all having to take a 4% reduction of pay and there will be no more company matching funds into our 401Ks. The pay reduction isn't horrible but it does effectively remove the entire raise we got back in October. I believe our company is really trying to keep everyone working though. All of our jobs are loaded up with personnel in order for everybody to have a home. When I say 'home' that's just construction slang for a place to work. Superintendents are often referred to as your 'daddy' also. Anyway, practically all the companies we deal with have been affected at this point. Many of our subcontractors have simply dropped down to a 32 hour work week. To tell the truth, I kinda wish that's what my company had elected to do. Many of the equipment rental businesses have laid off half their staff. Practically all jobs being bid now have 10-12 companies fighting for the contract. Most astounding of all is the profit margin that the companies are now willing to accept. Normally, if a job is cost plus, you get the cost to build the job and then 10% for profit. They are bidding jobs now at 2%. And for one of our biggest competitors, they are giving repeat customers a 1% rate.
We have actually started a couple of new jobs this month; very small ones but it's something and we continue to hear rumors of more work. So, we keep holding on. I'm taking today off just for a little break. There are plenty of carpenters on my job now so the boss said it was fine. We are kinda taking turns having a day here or there if somebody wants off. Many of the boys don't have that luxury, as they have a number of bills, but since I'm in a good way on that, a day off for me every once in a while will save a little labor cost for another day. And I can work on the house. One thing I have always liked about my company is that it really is like a family amongst the field personnel. We cling together when it's rough and try to watch out for each other. So, we'll ride this one out too.

Hey! one nice thing is that my orchid is getting ready to bloom again! I've never had this type plant before and wasn't sure if I could raise any but it seems to really love the house. This type orchid especially likes the abundant sunshine from this house design. It's loaded up with buds. They are such sparse and elegant plants. And in case you're wondering, I did not make that pot it's in but might try some in the future. So, hope everybody has a great Friday and I'll try to post some over the weekend.

*Cowboy Junkies

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Oh, Lady, Be Good!

Well, I certainly did not intend for any of the last few posts to be depressing or embarrassing but it seems that maybe they have been. So in order to make amends, I give you this slightly funny story. It pretty much sums me up in a lot of ways.
While I was working over at Red Diamond this last time, there were several painters there also, running their punch list. Most of them I have known for years but there was one that I had not met before. Funny thing about construction workers is that we often will work for months on a job together and never introduce ourselves. So, this new painter wanted to borrow one of my small artist's brushes to do some touch up and I gladly let him borrow it. I saw him later that day and asked if he was done with it, as I needed it. Oh yes, he was done and had asked his foreman where I was in order to return it. "I got in a lot of trouble because of the way I referred to you though", he confessed. I didn't quite know how to take that comment but he seemed to want to tell me the rest of the story, so I took the bait. He continues, "Well, I asked Forrest (the foreman) where that lady was working so I could return the brush and he got all over me!" "That's no lady, man! that's Annie!" was the foreman's indignant reply. We all got a big laugh out of it. I knew what the foreman meant but he ran up to explain anyway. He meant, that's not just any lady, that's Annie. I've often had some of the very young guys, from several different companies, come up to me and say, "Oh!, so you're Annie!" I don't know if that's good or bad but they always call me Ma'am after that.
So, back to what I first mentioned. The BFA (big, fancy architect for new readers) and Allen both got on to me for writing about the recent personal stuff. Said it was awful and embarrassing. Never do that again etc. Just keep it about the house and so on. Well, you know, I've talked about this before and I really don't usually let other people determine what I want to do. I am my own person and know what I believe. You can tell by what I do for a living that I go my own way but I don't want to write stuff that gonna make people cringe or whatever. I just figured I was writing about life and sometimes it's good and sometimes it's not. I said, well, it's not like I wrote about how that I wanted to throw this man down in the cab of that train and make passionate love to him for several hours. Because I know I'm the only person who would EVER have thoughts like that. Or how that when we were all sitting around at lunch one day and the train pulled up in front of us, I kinda got lost in thought as I watched him unhooking the trains and bending over repeatedly in front of me. And how 20 years of climbing those steep steps had done absolute wonders for that man's ass. Then, when I noticed it had gotten really quiet and turned around, all the guys were staring at him too, until one of them broke the silence and remarked gruffly, "well, I don't see what's so hot about him!"
You know, it's not like I wrote about any of that stuff. I've been told often that I am a rather open and forthright person. But I don't see anything wrong with that. Life happens to everyone, doesn't it? Seriously, I don't want to make readers uncomfortable but sometimes it might help some people to see that they are not the only one having a hard time. I know a lot of times when you are down it feels like you're the only person in the world that things are not going right for. But I say that's not true. Everyone has problems; no one is alone and in this amazing world of cyberspace we can encourage each other from across the globe!. But for all my physical talents I guess I do not have the talent to express my thoughts correctly. It just ends up sounding like I'm whining. So, unless I can improve my writing skills to better express these things I will probably just keep the subjects limited to the house or work.

*Ella Fitzgerald

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Thousand Miles

Crappy picture I know but it was a chore trying to set the camera up on the timer and get Lika and myself actually in front of the camera. He did fine really. When I hold him he just lays back and relaxes but when I let him go... he goes bonkers! I wanted to show how big he's getting. See those big ol' feet? His, not mine. He's going to be a good size dog. He's a sweet dog and he loves to chase the deer away so he's really doing well. Maybe I can have a few flowers this year.
I've not had many good ideas for things to post about lately. Not much going on at the house. Every so often I hit a lick at that patch in the bathroom wall. It's almost done. I'll paint it this weekend and hopefully get the light fixture back up and all. The weather here has been quite nice these past 2 days and I have noticed that I have a little more time to work outside when I get home from work because the daylight is lasting. Which means spring is on the way!!
While I was eating supper I was watching a special on PBS about the migration of the monarch butterflies. How astounding that such tiny, fragile creatures travel 2,000 miles and over the Great Lakes and the ocean. How do they know where to go and how to get there? The scientist surmised that the only way the butterflies make it, since they are really so poorly designed for long travel, is that they can glide most of the way on warm air currents.
This past summer I remember seeing the monarchs fly across our job. For several days in a row a very small but steady stream of bright, orange butterflies made their way across the jobsite, all heading in exactly the same direction. We had stood the tilt up panels at that point and I remember watching the little orange spots slowly rise up and disappear over the tops of the panels.
Lately I have been a little down and it occurred to me that you all are witness to my migration. I feel like I am heading towards something but I'm over that big body of water and I can't see the other side. Occasionally, I hit a good wind and can coast for awhile but a lot of the time it's very hard and I don't think I'll make it. Do the butterflies recognize any landmarks on their way, from their collective memories passed down from countless generations? Sometimes I think I get a glimpse of where I'm going: a certain feeling in the air or a sudden, brief moment that comes in a dream, a few curious words from a stranger. I guess everyone feels this way but sometimes it just strikes me rather forcefully.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Waiting On The Sun

Oh, I want winter to be over. I can't imagine living up where it is really cold. My southern blood is just too thin! I've been perusing my new Seeds Of Change catalog (like everyone else) and dreaming of warmer days. Maybe there will be many new things to blossom this spring.
*The Doors

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Always Something There To Remind Me

At the risk of being boring, I am wanting to elaborate on or explain some of my recent postings. So, if you're just looking for stuff about the house you might want to skip this post. I don't know how successful I'm going to be at this so ya'll just bear with me.
I have been unsure of the past few posts I've made (and deleted some of them) for 2 reasons:
Now, I know some of you may scoff at this but just listen to me. As someone who works in an industry somewhat ostracized by "polite" society, I am unsure what things regular people talk about. See, construction is sort of a society unto itself. We have our own social order etc. and we are often reminded by 'regular' people that we should stay to ourselves. We are told by our bosses to stay away from the white-collar people we must sometimes work around. Don't talk to them; mind your own business. Most construction workers are a very outspoken, candid bunch. Say what's on your mind and get it over with. But I know this doesn't always go in the social world; you're supposed to be more tactful than that. To me, the story of the Switchman is just an honest account of how life is sometimes very crappy and bittersweet, with a few funny stories thrown in. But some people might view it as offensive, which leads to my second reason.
I don't want anyone to think badly of the Switchman. When I left the railroad it kinda hit us that we cared for one another and we both expressed some of that. But we agreed then that there would be no contact between us. No calls, no dropping by 'just to see how you're doing' or anything as that would just not be appropriate. Only the promise that if he ever found himself single, he would find me. And so we've been running from each other ever since and that is what makes these coincidental (or not) episodes all the more frustrating. If it can't be then just let me forget the man, you know?
And I've tried. I have tried very hard to meet someone else. The funny thing is that I normally don't have much trouble with that. I mean, not that I'm all that, I just work around tons of men. The law of averages is just going to let you meet at least one every now and then. And I have met a couple of guys that seemed very interested and I thought, "hey, we might could get together" and then he just disappears or I get transferred to another job. Two other guys I know and have been friends with for some time have called and want to go out. I have been open to this and told them to drop by the house sometimes and we could talk but every time one of them starts to come by to visit or wants to go out, something comes up to stop them. I'm starting to feel like I've got the mark of Cain on me or something!
So, ya'll know that I got sent back over to Red Diamond a couple of weeks ago. The job that takes me very near to his house. This is also the job that they keep having cosmetic issues with and so they feel that, because of my art training, I'm the only one that can repair these problems. Can't send another carpenter, it's got to be Annie, so I can't refuse to go and my other boss can't refuse to let me. So, the building is essentially done and the people have moved in and are working. Most of them are very nice and actually want to chat with the four of us, which is a little unusual. One especially cold morning this slightly, older than middle age woman comes up to me and is making conversation about the weather etc. I remarked that I was just glad to be working in a warm building, as I usually have to work outside. Oh, she knew how that was! Her husband has to work out in the weather also and she really felt for him that morning as he bundled up for work. "Well", she continued, "he is a conductor on the railroad, he works for (same RR) out of the (same) yard so I really sympathize with all of you that work in the weather". I cannot express the terror that I felt at that moment. She seemed a little too old to be his wife but the way things have been going, I couldn't be sure of anything. I just thought to myself, "oh, no, no, nonono!" I somehow managed to squeak out, "oh, really" and prayed that my facial expressions were not revealing my panic. "Yeah, Joe just hates it when it is so cold." Oh, thank God! the Switchman's name is not Joe. I tried to contain my relief long enough to make it down the stairs where she went off to the cafeteria and I ran to find Steve, who some of you might remember, worked with me over at the RR. I told him what just happened and we were practically rolling in the floor laughing. I tell you, I was about sick.
The thing is, I can pass off the occasional sighting of the Switchman on the highway as just chance. I mean, we both live north of the same large, metro area and therefore must travel the same major highway. I can pass off every job I've been on since having a train connected to it. We build industrial and heavy commercial buildings after all, and they often use trains. I can even pass off our company having to go back to the same railroad job. Accidents do happen. But getting sent back to this job, having to drive down his road, parking beside Steve every day, who drives the exact same model and color truck as the Switchman, hearing that damn train blast it's whistle off every, freaking time we come out of the building and now, listening to this sweet lady who just loves to talk about her dear husband and his job as railroad conductor (and who knows all those other conductors over there, as she says), is just a little much. Whether it means anything or not. It's just these constant, persistant reminders. The guys are starting to take bets on when I'm going to run into him again. I feel like beating my head against the wall. I have laughed about it as often as I've cried I guess. What else can you do?
So, only time will tell. Maybe it will all make for a good story one day. A story that has a happy ending.

*Lou Johnson

Friday, January 23, 2009

Crazy Chick

Sorry that I have been so flaky lately about posting. And then deleting. And then posting again and so on. I'm not having a breakdown or anything, I just don't know what to think. Ya'll know I like to tell stories and such 'cause I do have such funny, weird and stupid things happen to me. It all makes for some good laughs and like that song says, 'things that make you go, hhmmm.' I guess I've just been afraid of talking about some things too much and being boring or appearing psycho or offending someone. Yeah, I know Richard, I should stop worrying what other people think!
So, I don't know. The past 2 weeks have just got me shaking my head again and thinking of all kinds of stuff. Some of it has been pretty funny too and luckily I've had Steve to laugh with at work. I know I analyze most things way too much but sometimes I think you just can't help but wonder.
So, I'll try to come up with something about the house soon. My stint at Red Diamond is over and Monday I return to the hideous, muddy food distribution center. I really dislike that job. I hate to complain because I am glad to be working but I really don't want to go back. The boss and crew are great so I don't really know why I dislike it so. Well, it will be over with in March so I don't have much longer.

*Charlotte Church

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Trains And Winter Rains- Redo

OK, no, you are not hallucinating, those of you who checked in over the weekend. I did delete this post and now I'm redoing it. I'm just stupid that way sometimes. The segment on CBS Sunday Morning about "Art In The Age Of Steam" is worth checking out here and if you are actually around the Kansas City, MO area, you might check out the exhibit at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. For those of you who might have any interest at all in trains. In the spirit of things, I offer the above photo. Not a steam engine but I still like the shot.
My reason for deleting the original post had nothing to do with any comments made or my reply to any comments. I just get really paranoid somebody might take something I wrote the wrong way. See, the oddly coincidental things concerning a certain Man, have occurred once again and I mentioned that. It's getting to the point now that I fear some might say that it is not coincidental at all, that somebody is contriving something. But that's not so. Now, he did send greetings to me through another carpenter I work with but that's it (as far as anything planned)and was done innocently enough. I guess I just shouldn't mention the stuff at all but it is so weird to me that it has become somewhat fascinating just for the 'odds of it all' factor. I don't think I've ever continually ran into someone so much for so long, that I did not work directly with. Plus, you all that have been reading for a while know the story and it's just something funny and quirky to write about when the house gets slow; which it does often. Besides, if Fate ever intervenes, I want this crap recorded! what a story that would be!
So, anyway, my bizarre life continues. Oh, hey! I'm going to be in a magazine! Several of us craftspeople that worked on the Big House (from waaay back) are going to be featured in a locally published, national magazine! Hey, hey! And the lady I spoke to said that they all thought I was so weird (she didn't use that word but you know..) ,because of all the stuff I do, they want to do a full-length article on just me!! later on. Ha! We'll see.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fixing A Hole

I messed up on my placement of the sink in the bathroom counter top so I needed to move one of the two sconce lights on that wall in order to get the mirror to center up properly over the sink. It wasn't off by much and I guess some might have not bothered but it was aggravating to me. So, Allen said he would move the light for me and I could do all the patching. Fair deal I thought.
There are several ways to patch drywall but this one is fairly easy. This way uses the same pieces you cut out and you just tape the cuts. This is 1/2" drywall installed on wood studs so I used 1 1/4" coarse-threaded drywall screws. You need to countersink the screws between a big 1/16" to 1/8" so that enough mud will cover the heads and the spots not pop back out when the mud dries. Now, you must tape your joints will either regular drywall tape or you can use this mesh sticky tape. If you don't your joints are going to develop cracks. This mesh type is handy and easy to use and it sticks on the wall itself so you don't have to apply the mud first and bed the tape in it. Not that that is hard to do but it just saves a step.
Next you just skim your first layer over the patch and no, it's not going to look good the first patch but you're not worried about that yet. You will probably have to skim out at least 4-6 inches past the cuts in order to feather the mud out properly. Don't worry about completely concealing the patch on this first pass either. If you look closely, you can still see the tape through the mud. You are going to have to make 3 or 4 passes. This is easier than trying to gob a bunch of mud on and sand it back down. Lots of people don't do well trying to patch drywall because they want to fix it as fast as possible, one pass and forget it, you know. Well, this is one of those things that you are just going to have to accept takes a little time. Use a big enough mud knife also. I used a 6" knife on this and that size should be fine for most patches. It's hard to describe the action of applying the mud. You scoop an even line of mud about 2" thick across your knife and then just smear it down the joint kinda thickly. Scrape excess mud off your knife on the edge of the pan and then draw the clean knife back down the joint, smoothing the mud and removing the excess. Keep repeating this around the patch, kinda feathering the mud out as you go around. You just have to keep practicing and you will see how the mud works. Don't work it to death though. Once you get a thin layer all the way around with no huge ridges, stop! Let that dry, scrap or sand those ridges down (and yes, you will have some small ridges at first) and apply the next thin layer of mud. Repeat, sanding in between. As you apply the last couple of layers it sometimes helps to thin the mud a little with water. then sand and prime. After you prime it you may see some small scratches in the mud and you can touch them up then.
I still haven't finished this patch myself! Hopefully I can get it done today and paint it soon. Most of the time it seems that I am just going at a snail's pace towards finishing this house but I guess as long as you are moving forward, no matter how slow, that's what matters. I guess.
*The Beatles

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Food For Thought

I hate to use such an old cliched title like that but it does fit. I know a lot of you garden, growing anything from just a little to most of your own food so I thought I'd give you a little more incentive to grow more or be very glad you grow what you do. See those four layers of orange racks towards the back there with all those boxes and pallets of stuff stacked on them? If you buy much from a grocery store, that is your food. And this building is just one of it's many stops on it's way to you. This is the distribution center that I have been working on since April. We are adding two separate warehouses which, I believe but don't hold me to it, will consist of around 500,000 square feet. This is the dry storage; the freezer and cooler areas are about done. Now, despite the horrible muddy conditions you see, the areas where the food actually is stays pretty clean. We had installed some partition walls to cover the food from the elements before the roof was on but they are approaching time to pour the floors here so we took the walls down. I have never seen any rats here but we have found many snakes.
These are the tilt up panels that I foisted upon ya'll so much earlier in the year. After we stand the panels up the steel workers come in and raise the steel inside, working to our panels. Every once in a while they will put the steel up first but it is usually done this way, in my experience anyway.
You see two rows of horizontal steel here, between the columns and little dots all along the top of those beams? those little dots are 8"x 8" steel plates embedded in the panels and they weld the structural steel to those embeds. This holds the panels to the building. The embeds have little "legs" protruding into the concrete so they won't pull out.
Although the crew here is great, the conditions suck! Mud everywhere and it's cold. I have been hoping and praying something would come up to get me sent to another job; any job. It's going to be 15 degrees here Friday! That's just nuts. Oh God, why couldn't I get sent somewhere else! So, today while I was rolling around in this 5' deep ditch, trying to wrestle 3' fittings onto 16" diameter Schedule 40 PVC pipe (because our company thinks for some reason we are now plumbers) the boss comes out and tells me I'm being sent back to Red Diamond tomorrow! Glory, Hallelujah! Yes! Yes! A heated building, running silly punch list! That art degree paid off! WoooHooo!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Keep The Home Fires Burning

This post may not be of interest to all but I know there are a number of my readers that heat their homes, at least partially, with wood so I thought I would present this idea. Now, I don't know if this would work in all areas because it depends greatly on the 'neighborliness' of work places around you but we do it here.
What you see in the photo above is what we construction workers refer to as 'dunnage'. Dunnage is 4x4 posts about 6-8 feet long that is used to elevate shipments of steel and equipment off the beds of flat-bed trucks in order for the forklifts or lifting straps to get under the load and it be removed. We also use dunnage to keep bundles of rebar or lumber up out of the mud and to be able to move it around easily. Dunnage is usually cut from cast off hickory, oak, pine and poplar so it is good wood. Now, sometimes it is roughed up to the point that you have to cut it to be able to tell what kind of wood it is but it is easily sawn with a circular saw, chainsaw or whatever. As far as I know it is not treated in any way, although some of it might get a little paint on it. It normally never has nails in it either.
Now, the reason I'm telling you is this: they throw this stuff away by the tons. Every day. We have stacks and stacks of it on the job I'm on now. Some truck drivers will take their dunnage with them and some jobs save all they get to use throughout the job but there is a lot still out there thrown away. It occurred to me that if you live in an area where hardwoods do not grow, this may be a way to procure some because often times structural steel and equipment is shipped across country. If they get a shipment from an area ripe with hardwoods, the dunnage is most likely going to be hickory or so.
If you don't have a connection to someone that works on construction sites then there are several rules you must follow so you don't piss these guys off. We have to be very aware of liability issues nowadays so please, do as you're told. Not so much by me, I mean the workers. First, go directly to the job trailer where the superintendent is. DO NOT enter the job site where work is actually going on and approach the guys there. Be very nice to the super and just explain what you are looking for. Use the correct terminology; they will respect you more. Do not say you are just looking for their scrap wood because he'll just say, we don't have time for that, go away. If they are willing to let you take the dunnage you will probably be required to come back before or after work when nothing is going on. However, if they tell you to wear a hard hat or boots or whatever, DO IT. Be quick, do what they say and don't start looking around for more to take. You will not be allowed to cut it there either so just load your truck and get out. Oh, be sure to thank them.
Now, like I said, I don't know what companies do in other parts of the country but here we try to give away what we can to keep it out of the landfills. Many companies now are requiring the sites to recycle more and more, so be aware also that they may not be allowed to give you stuff. That doesn't make sense either but you know how bureaucrats are.
So, maybe that is of some help to somebody. I know I burn dunnage when I can get it. Right now I am mostly using the trees that I am trying to get cleaned up from clearing etc. but do bring home a few sticks. Well, if the super doesn't beat me to it!

*John McCormack / written during WWI

Friday, January 09, 2009

Like The Weather

Well, the creek is pretty much back to normal. Flowing along as if nothing ever happened.
One good thing about flooding is that it cleans all the leaves and debris from the banks and makes everything look better. A little trash washed up but I can go pick that up easily now that there is not a foot of leaves on the bank to dig through.

We had some stretches of very cold weather at the beginning of winter here but the last two weeks have been in the 50's and 60's. It's nice but now all the little flowers and trees are beginning to think it is spring and I'm afraid they are going to be in for a harsh surprise next week. These daffodils are popping up all over the place. I hope the coming cold weather doesn't kill them. Funny thing though; these sprouting now are some a friend gave me last spring. The ones I brought here with me a few years ago are still snuggled down. Not a sign of them sprouting up at all. I guess they know better than these newcomers.

Speaking of sprouting....Lika is getting big! He's turning into quite the handsome dog. We took a walk down to the mailbox and I got him to sit still for just a little while. Actually, he was intent on a big buzzard flying just above the treetops. He seems like a pretty smart dog and has settled in here well. We've had some 'No!, No!" sessions because he likes to pilfer through my tools and drag stuff out. He doesn't chew stuff up but likes to take it out in the yard. I also have to watch where I set the laundry down (the washing machine is in the basement). He thinks it is great fun to grab a pair of my panties or bra and take out across the yard as fast as he can. Why do I always get guys like that? Oh well...

And hey! Look! Brussel sprouts! Well, sort of. I think I planted these and the cabbage a little late but I got them just as soon as they came out at the market. It seems that they should have matured by now though. I believe these are still too small to pick and they are loose, you know, not like tight, little, teeny cabbages. Does anybody have any experience with these things? I fertilized them after planting and re-amended the soil but haven't done much since. Should I keep fertilizing even in the cold weather?
I'm not sure what I will be working on this weekend. Ugh! It's supposed to rain again. I wanted to work on exterior stuff but don't know if I'll be able. I'm patching the drywall in the bathroom where the light was moved so I'll show that soon. I know ya'll just can't wait for that! Oooh, what excitement!
I'm going to try to update my blog and rearrange stuff so that all parts of the house are categorized etc. So that if someone wanted to see all posts on say, tile work or concrete, it will all be on the side there. This may take awhile. I did not start labeling posts until about a year ago so, God only knows how long this may take me.
*10,000 Maniacs

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Texas (Alabama) Flood

Well, I think our drought is over. We are now in the midst of widespread flooding. I know I've not lived in this area very long but I've never seen the water anywhere near this high before. This is next to my drive, down near the road. You can very vaguely see my truck in the upper, left hand corner. The water is almost up to the drive. Well, in fact, during the night it did cross the drive because there was leaves and stuff stuck about a foot up on my gate.
This is normally 2 distinctly separate creeks. You can't really tell but the water is rushing at a torrential rate.

Three wet weather creeks popped up around the house. I knew when I got up this morning and heard rushing water that something was wrong. I looked out the window and saw water all around the house. Of course, my house is way too high up to be in danger but a little water was getting in my basement. I decided to stay home because we don't have a lot of dry area to work in right now and figured there would probably not be much going on. I'm glad I stayed home because it got much worse later in the afternoon. I ran a couple of errands in town about lunch time and when I got back I got to looking at stuff. It pissed me off that the water was running around the house like that. Now, most of the wetness in the basement is my own fault because I have just never taken the time to waterproof and back fill certain areas. I kept putting it off because there have just been more pressing things to do and getting a little water in the basement is actually not that big a deal because it is not completely sealed up yet. But still. So, I got a pick and shovel and the wheelbarrow and went to work. Fortunately, I had a good stack of concrete block also. I worked for several hours in the pouring rain. I had to get the water diverted away from the house. My brothers at work would be disappointed in me if I let this little bit of water whip me. Fortunately also, it has been rather warm lately so I didn't really get cold until the sun started to go down. But I had won; at least for now. The great thing about rushing water is that once you start it in a new direction, it starts digging it's own path. You just have to help it out a little bit.

I thought several times during the ordeal, usually after I had just sprayed mud in my face, why in the hell did I build here? But, this is the land I was provided with so you use what you've got, you know. There would just be other problems if I had built somewhere else. The culvert closest to the house could not handle the amount of water going through from the creek that formed in the very bottom of the valley, so the water started flowing across the drive. It washed a couple of trenches in the gravel but nothing too bad. There is a lot of stone and sand in that driveway so I think it will be OK. As soon as it dries out around here I'm going to see if I can borrow a machine from the company and do some serious landscaping just uphill of these creeks. I need to dig a new slew to shoot the water out across the front yard. It shouldn't be too much trouble with a backhoe.

The road right next to the driveway did not fair so well. It has started to fail and collapse. The county just let a bunch of very heavy debris pile up in front of the culverts, which are like 4 feet in diameter each, and the creek started clogging it up. Allen has been going down to the county for the past 4 weeks, telling them this was going to happen but they just ignored him, I guess. We noticed this morning that the ground was starting to fall away from the road and a large hole open up, so he went back down there. This time they sent someone out to look and within 30 minutes they had a crew out here pulling the debris out. They cleared the openings but the dirt continues to fall away from under the road. I walked down and talked to the guys and they said just as soon as the rain let up they would have to just rework the whole bridge. I hope they do and don't put it off again. The guy I talked to seems quite aggravated that they had not been told this was happening. But we tried. He told me the name of who to call directly the next time we had a problem.
So, if I don't get washed away I'll be back soon, hopefully to post on further progress of the house.
Edit to add: You cannot see now but there are 2 long telephone poles and a couple of sections of tree trunks down there. When the county came and cut the trees back they just let the limbs and trunks fall into the creek against the culverts. It required a backhoe and blocking the road to clear these objects.
*with apologies to Stevie Ray Vaughan

Sunday, January 04, 2009

You Keep Me Hangin' On

I'm on a mission to completely finish the bathroom. Every last detail. So, I finally got around to making a towel bar and running the base trim, as you can see if you look at the floor. It's not very noticeable but makes a big difference. I did not get it all ran. I guess I wasn't really paying attention when I bought the trim and didn't get enough but one more stick should do it. Allen moved the light fixture for me so that the mirror can now center up over the sink. He did the hard part and now I get to patch the sheet rock and paint. It's not too bad, just about a one foot square spot. There are so many little things to do, like I have to grout between the base trim and the floor now, touch up paint etc. But it's just a thing.
This is a detail of the towel bar. I could not find one that was wide enough, that I liked, so I just made my own. I use towels that are 30" wide and like to spread them out to dry well. I built the towel bar out of things I just had around the house here, so it didn't cost me anything. I took some drop from the cypress trim and cut out these little blocks. They are 4" x 2 1/2". I love that cypress, it is such a pretty wood. I think I may use it for the shelves in the pantry also. The wrought iron hooks I had bought years ago. I always thought they were really cute but couldn't think of another way to use them in the house. The rod is just a long dowel I had from something; it's about 1 1/4" diameter. I just sanded all the wood good and applied the beeswax/linseed oil finish. I love that stuff. I used trim head screws to attach the blocks to the wall, actually hitting studs. The dowel is 34" long with the hooks at 32" so it just happened to work out on the stud layout and center between the window and shower. I still need to drill a small hole in the hook and run a thin screw through that into the wooden dowel to secure it. No big deal though.
I usually don't make new years resolutions and didn't this year but I am trying to renew my enthusiasm for finishing the house. I think I got a little burned out on it last year, especially towards the end. I started by purchasing a new filing cabinet and sorting and purging all of my paperwork and records. That tidied up my computer area and desk greatly and I think gave me sort of a second wind. I have since made a detailed punch list that goes room by room, starting with the bath first, as I think it will be the quickest to finish. I have also decided that I need to take advantage of not having a man around here and throw myself into getting a lot of stuff finished that has just been hanging over my head. Not that I'm going to seclude myself here and never go out, but just make better use of my time. I know that if there is a man around, especially a new one, he will distract me from the house because I want to do, umm, other stuff, is work time! Ya'll have not really seen how I can work when I put my mind to it. The stuff we do at work puts me to shame here and I've got to make more progress than I have been.
The next project is to build the stained glass window for the bath and finish the little bit of base trim. Over the weekend I got a table set up in the basement studio and the necessary materials to start the window, so hopefully that will be quick to get going. I am kinda concentrating on interior projects because it has been raining here so much lately. For like 2 weeks now. That's good because our whole state is no longer in an official drought but I haven't been able to work on much outside. I do have some materials ready though, so that if I were to get a good clear weekend, I can do some exterior projects.
*The Supremes

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Little Better Explanation

OK, this is a crappy little drawing but if you click on it and enlarge it you might be able to make sense of what I did with the sink counter. I know my photos of the pouring did not show things well. I was in a hurry and didn't realize I had not taken any photos until after I already had one bucket of mud in the form.
Basically, I located all of my wall studs that were withing the boundaries of the counter and drilled a 9/16" hole in each stud about an 1 1/4" down from the top of grade. Which is to say, down from what would be the surface of the concrete. It is 2" thick concrete and I tied a mat so you have to account for stacking two layers of rebar. I then inserted #4 rebar into each hole in the studs, glueing each one very well with construction adhesive and letting them extend out into the counter about 12". This gave me two #4 bars in each wall, which gives you more strength since the dowels are on 2 sides, rather than just on one wall. The countertop being set into a corner allows for both of your outermost corners to be supported. A triangle is one of the strongest forms and if you can keep the back corner down, the front can't tip forward.
I then tied #3 rebar to the #4 bars and long enough to run the length and width of the counter. I used #3 because this would take up less space, allowing more concrete around the bars but wanted stronger ones (the #4's) in the wall for obvious reasons. You can bend #3 bars pretty easily but #4 is much harder to bend.
I had to bend two of the #4's to get them to go into the studs straight but miss the sink area where they extended into the counter area. Now, I have a rebar bender to make this easy but you can bend it using a long secure pipe (a cheater bar) or a stump and nails etc.
I think I actually tied more rebar in the counter than what the drawing shows but I can't remember exactly. You get the idea though.
The counter is 42" long and about 22" deep, so it is not really that big of a surface. However, it is still pretty heavy and I think if I had made the counter any larger I would definately put 2 brackets under it for support.
So, FC, basically, it is attached to the wall the same way your mantel is.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Auld Lang Syne

I hope everyone has had a great New Year's Day or at least a peaceful day with no stress. Well, that's a great day in itself, right? I enjoyed the day off but have to work tomorrow. That's Ok though.
I cooked the traditional southern new year's meal and Fred and Allen came down to eat with me. Of course, we had ham (for progress), cabbage and black-eyed peas (for prosperity), potatoes (just because I like them) and cornbread ('cause you got to have it with greens). It was very good I must say and the cabbage was my very own from my garden! I was very pleased with it. I have never grown cabbage before and thought this was very tasty. Oh, and that is unsweet tea; very UNsouthern but we won't tell anyone. So, what do ya'll eat for New Year's in your parts?

I did a little work on the house. Allen helped me rip some of the last exterior trim for the siding. Mostly I cleaned and got organized from the holiday mess. Lika and I went for a couple of walks and I kept a fire burning all day and night.

I hear next Tuesday and Wednesday they are trying to organize a Cyber Yard sale where we are all supposed to show our junk! Post any funky junk or crap or decent stuff you want to get rid of. Sell, trade or just give away. I'm trying to come up with something but I have done some major purging over the last year so I'm not sure what I've got. I know I can come up with something though.

I wish everyone out there a very happy and prosperous new year and hope we all see peace and joy in our lives. May we all make great strides in our goals and in creating a better, safer and cleaner world.

Note: I'll respond to the comments on the previous post just shortly. I appreciate them all and ya'll know I like to answer each one. Just a little short of time right now.