Thursday, August 30, 2007

One Of Those Days

I have been trying to pour this slab under the house for 2 or 3 weeks now. I really need to get it done so that I can move my pottery studio here and give all of the downtown studio back over to Fred for his antique store. This will save me money and hopefully make him some more money but things are not working out right now. It hasn't rained here in weeks and the day before I want to pour..... well, you guessed it. It comes a freaking flood. I had finally gotten a day that I could take off from work, had the concrete set up and was heading to the house yesterday after work to finish tying a little of the rebar etc. when it started raining, so I waited it out up at the apartment. I thought I had blocked or diverted all the areas where water could wash mud down under the house but I was wrong. So, I thought, I can muck all of this out and wash the poly off, get everything put back and still be able to pour. It had not rained so much that I didn't think we would not be able to get the truck up to the house. I worked until way after dark, after working all day mucking around in the mud building forms, and got everything cleaned up and ready to go. Then, I was awaken in the middle of the night by the sound of heavy rain and lightning flashes. We went down to survey the damage when the sun came up and it was just too muddy and sloppy to try it. I do not like getting a concrete truck stuck in the mud. It takes much effort to get them out, so Allen called the plant and cancelled the order; it was just on will-call anyway 'cause we thought this might happen. Then I went on in to work and made a few hours. I'm not doing crap tonight but going to bed early. I have to be at work at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow because we have a big pour scheduled for there. If I sound a little cranky I guess I am. But stuff happens and maybe for a reason. I was not able to schedule a finisher so it might be just as well that we did not pour. Maybe I can get one when we try again. Also, Fred has signed me and himself up for a pottery workshop September 22-23 and we have to take about a dozen pieces of unfired pottery with us to this thing. I don't have anything so I have got to get this area where I can work in it with enough time left to throw something. I'll get it one way or another but it just seems sometimes that it is just one thing after another.
Sometimes I just get so tired I feel like I can't do another thing. I'm telling you this in case any of you are wanting to build your own house. I am not trying to discourage anyone but there are times when you will think, "what the hell was I thinking". And I do this for a living! But then again, I look at some of the amazing things we build at work and think, "this is really a piece of cake, don't be a cry baby".

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Big Things That I Used To Build

Excuse the horrible quality of the photo please. It's an old one I scanned and it came out crooked and I really don't have the patience to try for more than a few minutes to fix that. It's just a little token anyway to go along with a story I'm going to tell you. I have been working on the house but don't have all the photos I want to show etc. so I thought that I would answer a question or two that has been asked of me many, many times. FloridaCracker over at PureFlorida asked me this over on his blog but they are questions that are often posed to me by almost everyone who gets to know me at all.
First, "Where does my inspiration or artistic/creative talent come from and my ability for constructing things?" Now, I'm not saying that I have any, I'm just repeating the question.
Secondly, why in the world do I choose to work in the profession that I do since I have a college degree and should know better? This question I will answer in a later post.
Well, my mother is a very good artist and did study fashion design briefly before she got married. My father was an English major after he got back from Korea and enjoyed writing, however, both parents were raised in a time and place where such pursuits were considered frivolous and both abandoned their own talents to pursue more realistic employment. But it really goes back further and I tell you this because I look at the opportunity to meet and talk to other people as a great gift. I love to learn about people and their lives because what we each go through in our own lives is just a small fraction of the human experience. I know I'm telling you about me but I'm hoping that some of you may relate something back to me and we can share some of what makes us who we are. But back to my story.... as far back as I know, it (the artistic, constructive stuff) really came from my maternal grandfather. But he was not my grandmother's husband. That man died a couple of years before my mother was born. He suffered severe migraines and could not get any relief. The medical profession at that time really couldn't offer much, so he decided he could not bear it anymore and shot himself. Granny always told us, and everyone else I guess, that he died in the first World War. Southerners have always been very creative and absolute about covering up any impropriety in the family. My grandmother received some insurance money and used this to buy some land, where my mother lives now, and build a small house. She already had 5 almost grown sons and one daughter. Around this time my grandmother met a man who was a carpenter and became pregnant by him with my mother and her twin sister. I'm not sure about the details as no one in the family will say anything, but Mama's brothers then strongly suggested to the man that he leave the area for good. Everyone told my grandmother she should give up her babies so as not to be stuck with that stain of unwed motherhood but she refused and raised Mama and my aunt anyway. Years later, after a spiteful neighbor made an insinuating comment to my mother, my grandmother told Mama a little bit about the incident and said that the man, this carpenter, was also a very good artist; he would draw pictures of animals for my grandmother and that Mama must have inherited her ability from him. apparently was then all passed to me. I have often wondered if the stigma of the man was also passed to me because I have always been the black sheep of the family, the one that everyone else tries to sort of keep quite about. I wonder, do I favor this man? Do I have any of his looks, personality? I do not even know what his first name was and the one uncle that might would have told me died this past Friday.
As a child I was always building stuff, elaborate dog houses and such,and my mother was good to buy all of us kids any kind of craft kits to make things with. I even had a little, teeny potter's wheel. Could not make anything with that stupid wheel. Anyway, we were all encouraged in the arts until we got up to college age and then you were supposed to study something you could make a living at! I thought about going into architecture but decided I had to do something more hands on so I decided just to get an art degree. This did not go over well and I was told if that's what I wanted, then I could pay for it myself. To be fair, my parents did not have much money to support any more children in school. I am the last of four. So, I just plowed ahead on my own which has become the way I do everything and received a BFA from the University of Montevallo. Now, I tell you all of that because everybody seems to have this opinion that art is something that you are just born with or not but I don't agree. Yes, you must be born with a certain inclination towards it but everything I do, someone taught me. I had to learn how to see just like how to weld and how to use tools etc. But I think one of the most important things I learned from a wonderful college professor, was how to ask myself, " What if....?"

Oh, I forgot, the photo is from my seior BFA exhibition that we were required to present right before we graduated. If I look wore out, I was. I don't think I had slept in about 3 days. I still have that particular sculpture. In fact, it was inspired by my grandmother. It's about overcoming adversity, you know.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Actually, this is the whole turtle but that title refers to something else that I'll tell you about in a minute. Neither I nor Allen had ever see a little baby box turtle before. I am guessing that is what this is. If you know better, please tell me. So, we were talking about that one day and then just a few days later, I found this baby in the water line trench. If you ever want to trap you some turtles, dig a long trench. But anyway, so I took some photos of the little guy to show Allen and prove to him that they do start out small. Oh, and this one was full of himself too; he hissed and carried on the whole time I had him.
Construction workers sometimes refer to the hardhats as "turtle shells"; as in, "Put your damn turtle shell on". And if you bend over at the same time as another worker near you and bump hardhats, one of you is supposed to yell a certain, slightly obscene phrase that refers to 2 amorous turtles. We have a lot of weird little rituals and things to pass the day.
The heat now is just staggering. No one can remember it being this hot for this long. As Karen says on her blog, Rurality; work, work, work, hot, hot, hot. Amen. We are in the desperation phase now at work. The boss has brought down 2 big, 55-gallon drums of cool water for us to kind of splash in to cool off. We have tried every kind of sunscreen on the market but we are all burnt to a crisp. We are having to tie our own rebar and drive lots of metal stakes so it's misery to pick anything up. Of course, we wear gloves but it's so hot that doesn't always help. If you work in a nice, cool happy! We enjoy our work though.
When it gets miserable like this, we also tell stories and jokes to pass the day. Often times we work in pairs or small groups so it's easy to talk and work. Today's stories were "Humorous ways we almost cut our fingers off, set ourselves on fire or tore parts of our clothes off at work." I thought I topped them with a "Set myself on fire story" but one of the guys came back with an incident he witnessed on another job. I think it was a parking deck. So, this rodbuster is using a large impact drill on these rebar connectors and wasn't paying attention to what he was doing. Rodbusters are the guys that tie the reinforcing steel and are known for being rough, loudmouthed individuals. Well, something on the drill got caught in the leg of the guy's blue jeans and in the flash of just a couple of seconds, ripped his pants completely off his body. Anthony said all that the guy had left on was the waistband! I would have paid money to have seen that! Wait a minute, I think some people do pay money to see something like that. Anyway, the guy just duct taped his pants back together and kept on working. So.... always keep some duct tape handy and keep those drills away from your legs. The funny thing is, almost everyone I work with has done something similar to this.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Keep It Coming Up

Was that an old KC and the Sunshine Band song or someone else? Am I really showing my age here? Oh well, that song actually came on the radio while I was working and I've always liked it for just goofy, danceabililty stuff. This weekend I started on the rock wall that will enclose the underside of the house. Winter will be here before you know it and I have got to protect those water lines. Plus, I still have not collected enough paychecks yet to buy material for the interior of the house. These rocks are free. For now, I am just going to concentrate on closing up the "basement" and will do the stone planter beds that go in front of the concrete block at a later date after I move in. Got to get the essentials first.
I am sort of dry stacking the stones and trying to fit them as tight as possible. I am using a little mortar now towards the back of the stones so that it will not show on the face. I will go back later and put a parge coat of mortar on the interior side, filling in any voids with scrap rock. This is just a close up so that you can see that I am using anything from large stones down to very small. I really like the contrast of the sizes. I plan to repeat an occasional, very large stone throughout the height of the wall, not just on the bottom like in the first photo, so that the wall looks balanced.
Later on Sunday I mixed up 3 bags of Sackrete that we have had sitting around for a while and filled some of the block with it. I only need to fill the block in front of the columns where those metal ties are, so that's not so bad. Yes, I know, I needed to have had gloves on. Concrete can be very bad on the skin.
Allen spent the weekend filling in the water line trench. Not very exciting but another thing that must be done before cold weather. I have come to the conclusion also, that my filtration system is not working well enough. I am going to have to work on that some more and probably end up buying yet another filter. So far, I just have a spiral-down sediment filter (no cartridge, you just purge it) and one 6-stage filter for chemicals, organisms etc. but the sediment is still getting through. I don't understand it really. I think that the severe drought may be affecting things too.
I will try to post more. Work is pretty rough right now and I didn't do much last week after getting home. The heat just drains you so; I have pretty much let my garden go too. Stay cool!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Latest Buzz

Progress on the house is still going fairly slow so I thought I would just show some other stuff that I have been curious about. You know, they say that the European honey bee is on a fast decline and I have not seen a whole lot of them in my garden this year but I have seen tons of these bees. I have no idea what kind they are and thought some of you might know. These are about 2-3 times the size of a regular honey bee, notice the very large, green eyes, and they have very distinct, black stripes on their hinies that, due to my poor photos, you can't really see. They are very active and sometimes even seem to bully each other for a flower. Then at times, there might be 3 or 4 of them on (or in) a flower and seem to just be napping. I don't recall seeing these type before but that could just be due to my own inattention.
This is a view of the same bee from above so you can see that big, black spot too. They are not fat like a bumblebee; they have the streamline build of a honeybee, just bigger. Is this a mason or orchard bee?
I liked this spider because he just seemed to be melted and poured over that flower, it was so hot. His little legs just flopped over the edges of the petals. He did not seemed to be concerned about not being camouflaged on something green either because he stuck out like a sore thumb on that orange zinnia.
I think today was our 8th day in a row to be 100 degrees or hotter. They are forcasting Wed. and Thursday to be the hottest so far. We had a boy quit at work today; he just couldn't take it. We are setting concrete forms now and that means driving lots and lots of steel and wood stakes. I think this is going to be one of the rougher jobs that I have ever been on. I wish I could show photos of the job but.....
We are going to try to pour the slab at the house maybe Saturday if the plant is open. They are sometimes on the weekends if they have 80 yards or more scheduled. So, I've got to get that all ready in the next few days and I'll have photos of all the details on that. It will still be kinda slow until I accumulate enough money to start buying materials again though.

Update: OK, after getting off my duff and doing a miniscule amount of research, I think the bee is a leafcutter bee. You can go here, to see if you agree with me.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hot, Hot, Hot!

Hey! I'm back! I have not burst into a ball of flames and been reduced to nothing but ashes unlike a lot of other stuff around here. It is SO freaking hot. The past 4 days have all been 100 degrees or more and they keep forcasting more of the same for several more days. Everything is burnt up; my flowers, half of the garden etc. Well, I've gone back to work and that has been interesting, especially with the heat. It is just about unbearable at times. I think that it is even hotter where we are working because it is right in amongst all these trains. The locomotives put off so much heat and there is nothing around but gravel and metal. I have never experienced a job quite like this. We had one boy get sick Friday and I heard from a buddy who works for a subcontractor who said they had 2 men fall out on their jobs. One guy was OK and later went back to work but the other one was taken off in an ambulance and last I heard, he had still not regained consciousness. Hopefully, it will cool off some next week.
In the photo above you can see that we have about finished the grading under the house to pour that slab. Allen has to do a little plumbing tomorrow for the washing machine and then I can start putting the poly and rebar down. Not sure when I'm going to pour but I need it to be soon! I'm not really able to do much inside the house right now due to lack of funds. I have done a lot that did not require much money but most of the stuff now is big ticket items, especially the things that will help me get moved in the house like flooring, tile etc. After I get through a couple of paychecks I should be able to resume buying material though.
This is a really cool rock I found today while we were doing some digging and clean up. The fossil part there looks like it was made from a piece of wood. Up close, you can see the grain form the wood and all. I know nothing about this sort of thing though. There were some smaller, similar places on the other side of the rock.
Edit: Oh, I forgot to tell you; we were also swarmed by honey bees at work one day! That was really bizarre! Several of us were working on some forms in one spot and all of a sudden we heard this low, weird noise and looked up. We were completely engulfed in a swarm of bees. They did not go down close to the ground however, so it was just like from the shoulders up. They seemed to just be flying in every crazy direction but still maintaining a cloud formation. We just sort of stood still and watched when we realized they were not going to hurt us and the bees slowly drifted off in a cloud. They seemed to be moving in a definite, straight line also. It was very cool.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

These Boots Were Made For Walking

Actually, I think these boots were made more for kicking the crap out of somebody or something. That old song always makes me laugh because when we were little, it had just come out and my sister would stomp around in Daddy's boots singing it. She still stomps around a lot.

If you read my updated last post you know that I am back to work tomorrow so I have been running around the past couple of days getting ready. We have to be drug tested, have a background check, get new steel-toed boots, find all my tools and get them back in order. I cannot say much about this new job other than it is for the railroad. Homeland Security now monitors all that stuff and thus the background check etc. in addition to all the strict requirements from the railroad. I especially cannot discuss much about the job over the Internet. And of course, I get to start back on the day that is forecast to be the hottest day this year. It was 100 degrees in parts of Birmingham today and tomorrow is supposed to be worse and we are working right amongst the trains; no shade anywhere! If I don't post again for a few days just bear with me. Not much has been happening at the house this week due to this and the pour (under the house) has been put off for a week or two. But I'll be making good money again and can buy all kinds of stuff for the house!

I am going to work for a superintendent that I started out with 13 years ago. He (Larry) was the first one to let me come on his job as a apprentice carpenter. It was a 6-story apartment building and I was petrified. The company only wanted me there because it was a government job and it looks really good for them to have minorities. No one thought I would last a week but I finished that job up and kept on. I have encountered a fair amount of prejudice and discrimination over the years in my work but a lot of the men have been very fair to me. Larry has always been good to work for even though I know I have aggravated the crap out of him. He was the super on the second job I was on and we were out in the field one day; I was nailing door block-outs together and Larry was standing very nearby talking to the foreman (my then husband). I zinged a 16-penny double head nail and hit him square in the chest with it. He slowly looked up at me as if I had spit in his face. Now, Larry is a big man; very imposing, especially to a little apprentice girl. I looked frantically around for a piece of plywood, a rock, anything that I could crawl under. I didn't know what to do. He just sighed and shook his head. He has done that a lot over the years around me. Like that other time I caught my pants on fire! But that's another story.....

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Why You Should Have Completed Drawings Before....

So you don't have to come back and dig the dirt out by hand when you decide that you want a concrete slab under the house after all. They make these great machines called back hoes that are just wonderful for digging so you don't wake up in the middle of the night with your shoulder and elbow screaming at you for doing this to them. Well, I was in such a rush to get started on the house I wasn't thinking. I knew I wanted a studio at home; I just didn't give good thought to where. For now, this is going to be partially my pottery studio. The washer and dryer will also be down here, until the rest of the house is built and some storage. It's not that bad to dig out if you just don't think about it. You know what they say, just do it! I'm going to try to pour this Friday, or Saturday if the plant is open, so I have got to get on the ball.
Now, this might look bad; Allen sitting on his butt while I'm digging, but he had done most of this by himself while I worked on stuff inside the air conditioned house. This end is to grade and ready for the next step. As soon as I get the rest of it to grade, I'll put a layer of poly down and a rebar mat. This end is where my work area for my pottery and stained glass will be. I found out this past week I can get some free windows to go down here! That will make the area much nicer; being able to work and look out over my garden and flowers. More about the windows later.
OK!, all of you that have not voted on my light fixtures, I want to hear from you. If they look like hammered cat doo, please tell me that too. The BFA actually liked them OK, although he says they should not have any lines on them at all. Just plain globes. What do ya'll think? I thought about that but liked a little detail on them.
As of now, I go back to work on the 13th so it's now a frantic rush to get as much done as possible. Have to go get drug tested tomorrow in preparation as a matter of fact. Whoopee.

Update: I go back to work tomorrow! The 8th. Now, it's a frantic rush to find a pair of size 7 steel-toed boots. Not easy.

Friday, August 03, 2007

This Little Light Of Mine

Ok, here is the light fixtures that I'm thinking of. I took some wine bottles and cut the top and bottoms off so that I just have a cylinder. That was pretty cool; I had never cut glass bottles before. Fairly easy. A friend of mine is a fabulous glass artist and she said I could bring them over to her studio and sandblast them to give them a frosted look. That was fun also.
So then I wanted to add a little detail because I think the glass cylinder itself is a little plain. I took copper foil that you use to make stained glass windows with and ran it around in various designs. The copper is a peel and stick thing and then you go back and solder it to make it a little more substantial. I will then patina it a darker color; like a dark gunmetal color. Ok, so here is where you all come in. Which design do you like best? Going from left to right, far left being #1 etc. Of course, there is an infinite variety of things you could come up with but I'm trying to keep it simple. Keep in mind, I have to make 30 of these. So tell me what you think. Do I have preference? Yes, but I'm not saying.
This is just one I grabbed up and put in the fixture so to see it lit up. They look pretty good. the globe part is about 5 1/2" tall. The fixture itself is a cheap ($2.85) porch light fixture that I installed upside down. And yes, I am using the energy efficient, compact florescent bulbs; 60 watt.
Here it is a little further away so you can get a different feel. This has been taking most of my time yesterday and today so not much else going on at the house. I think I'm getting a little frustrated or burnt or something too. Needed something a little more creative than caulking and painting to concentrate on. This is a quick post today as we are going to Birmingham tonight to attend a gallery opening where some friends of ours exhibit their work.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Toot, Toot!!!

That's me blowing my own horn for a minute! All of you long-time readers of mine will remember back when I worked at the "Big House" in Birmingham. Well, during that job I inadvertently got roped into writing an article for a magazine about the restoration we were doing. They promised money and fame and glory if I would do it!! OK, they promised a little money and a few free copies of the magazine. Anyway, it has finally been published and is out in bookstores now. The magazine is Alabama Heritage and it is put out 4 times a year by the University of Alabama. You can go here, to view the preview and such, just scroll down to "In This Issue" and I think mine is the second story down. There is just a small blurb about the article there, but lots of pictures. Some, you may recognize from here. I am quite excited; the people at the magazine did a wonderful job editing and adding photos. The article is mostly about the history of the house (very colorful) and the restoration process and who all was involved. Actually, the job is still going on; they have begun doing some interior work now I believe. I have actually been in this magazine once before about 4 years ago when I did the restoration on the Sybil Temple in Vestavia Hills, AL. It's a very interesting magazine and they do an outstanding job of presenting information on Alabama's historical places and events.
As far as house news, I don't feel as though I have gotten much done this week so far. Just a lot of touch up on paint and drywall. I am going to try to finish the light fixtures for the clerestory tomorrow. I really need to go back to work next week so that I can start purchasing more material. There are a few things that I can still do that don't require money but nothing that will help me get moved in the house and that is really what I am pushing for.

I found a one-legged frog under the house today. Poor thing, he seemed to be handling it well but it looked like something bit it off. I washed him off with some cool water and put him under a cucumber plant in the garden. I hope he is OK.