Thursday, October 30, 2008

Things Have Changed

About 10:00 a.m. this morning I found out I was being sent to another job. They need a welder on this other job so since ours is kinda slowing down, guess who gets to go. I will be happy to get to do some welding though, for a change. I hardly ever get to much anymore. Also, this new job is possibly a little closer to home and I don't have to drive through Birmingham traffic to get there. Looks like I can go mostly back roads, so it will be a nice drive. They said I will be there for several weeks but you never know. Anyway, hope everyone has a happy Halloween if I don't get back before then!

*Bob Dylan

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Things That Go Bump In The Night

Oh, don't worry, it's not another suggestive title, just a nod to the impending Halloween! I have learned a valuable lesson this fall as far as home building goes. Never build a house with a metal roof directly under an oak tree or a tree that produces nuts or any other large, hard round thing that can fall off in the middle of the night, smacking the metal roof and scare the absolute bejeebies out of you. And when the wind gusts and a bunch of the acorns fall at once, it can sound like a freaking machine gun. I leave for work before the sun comes up and last week I had gone out to start my truck and was coming back inside for just a moment. Keep in mind that it is completely dark around my house, totally surrounded by thick woods and I am a total, clumsy dork. As I neared the steps going up to the deck, one of this giant acorns decided that was the best time to make it's descent. It hit the roof just a few feet from my head. Kapow! When I am startled I tend to have these convulsive fits where I kinda jump around. I thought I had thrown my hip out or something. I am not a morning person and just do not need this kind of stress at that time of day.
So, that tree will become firewood. For other reasons also. Now, before you all start squawking!....there are 4 more oaks within 25-30 feet of this one. They are not going to grow properly anyway with that many so close together. So there!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Get On Top

This past weekend it was time to clean the clerestory windows, so up on the roof I went! Huh? What's that? You thought this post was going to be about something else? Hmmm. Nope, just window cleaning. heehee....
Anyway, you see, back in the summer when I had the clerestorys open for such a long time, the aggravating little mud daubers filled up the little grooves on the sides of the windows where the support bracket for the panes slides up and down. I appreciate the enthusiasm the daubers show for nabbing spiders and caterpillars but I think they are determined to fill up every single nook and cranny on this house. Some of which I need. So, some of the windows would not close all the way. Since the only comfortable way to reach the outside of these windows is from the roof, I decided just to make a cleaning event of it.

Next year I believe I will fill those grooves with backer rod after I open the windows for the season. I believe the daubers will then overlook the groove and at the end of the season it can just be pulled out and the window closed. I am going to have to permanently install some screw eyes or something similar in a discreet manner along this wall in order to attach a life line when I am up here working. I have a lot of work to do here still and it does get slippery sometimes.

I really liked this shot of the inside of the house because it shows just how much sunlight is shining in the house now. I still think I could have gone with at least one more window but I'm not sure where I would have put it. Anyway, I'm happy with the amount of sun in the kitchen and living room. Plus, it adds a very airy and special glow to the rooms. It just makes you feel good. I am somewhat frustrated that I cannot get back far enough to show the whole room at once. One of my friends that visited lately had the comment that she was surprised how big the kitchen/living room was because you could just not get a feel of it on the blog.
This photo was taken right in the middle of the cleaning frenzy so please overlook the mess.
We have just been kinda piddling at work lately (we only poured 18 yards of concrete today) so I have had lots of energy when I get home for things. I have worked on some stuff in the garden, which I hopefully, will show you soon. I also harvested the last of my peas and peppers and a good amount of catnip. I believe the frost is going to get them tonight.

*Red Hot Chili Peppers

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunshine Of Your Love

Friday was a rainy ol' drizzly, gray day but yesterday was beautiful and today should be also. A buddy of mine that worked out on the railroad job (one of my few unmarried guy friends) dropped by Friday afternoon to visit. I was happy to see him as we have not seen each other since that job, although I have spoken to him on the phone a couple of times. That's the way it goes in construction. He was sent to the Slidell, LA job which has now officially been shut down. He had come home to get his trailer to haul back and get his stuff. The job was expected to last 2 years so the guys will rent a house and so on. So, I don't have to worry about going to Slidell anymore. An interesting note though, is that he said our site engineer has continued to have meetings for another railroad job in or near Atlanta. Before we all left the railroad, their rep asked us if we would all go over there to build the same thing, only bigger. They were so happy with our job they wanted the same crew to do this other one but we all knew that the odds of getting us all together again would be slim. This Atlanta job is supposed to start in January, so now, the odds may not be so slim with this LA job shut down. Several of the guys had gone or were going there. I'm not so sure. I've about had it with trains myself (and what they remind me of), every job I've been on since surrounded by them.
But, back to my original story. My buddy had been dying to come see the house for some time so we had a good chat for awhile and I gave him a mini tour. He loved it here and the house. I've been very happy to have my recent visitors describe the house and land as: So cozy, wonderful, comfortable and serene. Very peaceful and relaxing and the house like a romantic retreat and extremely well built. I don't know about the romantic part, I wish, but we'll see! Now, these are other people's words so I don't want it to sound like I'm bragging so much. But it is very peaceful here.
I ended up doing garden work yesterday but finally completed a project that I've been wanted to put together for some time so I'll show ya'll that soon. May get to work on the pantry today. Hope you all have had a good weekend so far.


Friday, October 24, 2008


I did manage to put up some food from my garden this summer and pickled okra is one of my favorite treats and very easy to make. I know it's not a food staple, like canned tomatoes, but it's still nice to have on hand. In fact, when two of my friends came out for a visit this past weekend, I was happy to be able to include some in a little hors d'oeuvre plate we had to snack on while lunch was cooking. Anyway, some of you in Aussie land might not be familiar with okra, I don't know. Then again, you may know all about it. It is a staple here in the South, though I believe in comes from Africa, and I suppose we prepare it about every way possible. I received this recipe for a pickled version from an old plumber I worked with many years ago at one of the hospitals we built. He was a very nice gentleman and I heard also that he could make some wonderful moonshine but, unfortunately, I never got to sample that. In fact, I get a lot of great recipes from the guys at work. Most people are surprised to think that a bunch of rough ol' construction workers would be able to cook anything edible but many of them are really fine cooks. I mean, it's not stuff you would find at some 5-star restaurant but it is good food. One particularly gruff, cranky old rodbuster I know, and just love to pieces, can make some of the best cakes you have ever put in your mouth.
But anyway, here is the recipe:
Liquid mixture for 5 pints: 4 cups of vinegar. 2 cups of water. 1/2 cup pickling salt.
Place 1/2 tsp. dill seed and 1 tsp. mustard seed in the bottom of each sterilized pint jars. I also place one or two cloves of garlic and one hot pepper in each jar but you can leave out the hot peppers if you like or add more! Pack washed okra fairly tightly into jars but don't pack so hard as to bruise. I alternate placing the pods in upside down to better utilize space also. Bring liquid mixture to boil and pour over okra, allowing about 1/4" head space. Seal jars immediately and let stand for at least 2 weeks. I think pickled okra is best served chilled. This recipe is very simple and the pickles come out very crisp but not too salty.

I have also been trying to update my blog list over there on the side. If your blog is not there yet please know I'm still working on it! That kind of thing takes me a while. If you have not checked them out yet you should really go see Molly's blog, Crossroads, although have you renamed it, Molly? Anyway, she's from Down Under and writes some wonderful self sufficiency posts and just general, living a real, satisfying life kinda stuff. She's much more eloquent than I am.
Also, check out Eighth of an Acre Bounty. Now, Maya can cook! This woman writes about food I would never know how to prepare and it sounds so wonderful. She also has some great posts on living a simpler, more satisfying life and her posts about their chickens are great too! She and her man grow all sorts of food on a tiny little plot in the northwest I believe.

I'll be working on the pantry and various things around the house tomorrow so maybe I'll have something to post about. I also had an unexpected visitor today that I was very happy to see. One of my buddies from work came by so I'll tell ya'll a little about that later. Not that it was all that exciting but he did have a little job gossip.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why Do You Think They Call It Programming?

These photos don't have anything to do with the subject of this post but I hate to not put up pics of something and the photos of my garden are just not that exciting on their own, so I combine the two! This is some unknown little flower that grows around the house. The blooms are tiny!

This is one of my cabbage plants. I put my hand in there for scale. I believe they are just starting to form the heads. I have never grown cabbage before so don't really know what is going on with them but they know what to do. My brussel sprouts are doing well also.

This is Mexican tarragon. I believe it has another common name but that slips my mind at the time. I grow this solely for the beautiful, dark yellow blossoms at summer's end. It smells, sickeningly enough, like anise or licorice, which I despise. It is a very hardy perennial though.

People often ask me how I find time to plant a garden, work around the house etc. and work a full time job or they (mostly the guys at work) express curiosity about how I spend my free time, seeing as how it is just me here. Ya'll know I don't feel that I get much done here a lot of the time but a good many people seem surprised, especially when they see my place, that I have so many projects going on and do this and that.
First off, I have no family to take care off and so that frees a lot of time. I'm astounded by the couples I see that have small children to care for, and one another, and still build their own place and farm and all sorts of things. I think these people are really the strong ones. Granted, if I had a husband, a little more work might get done because it could continue even though say, I have to go prepare a meal, but I still say that my lack of obligations allow me the time and energy to do this stuff. Because of that, I realize that the way I am building my house is not realistic for most people. Nevertheless, maybe what I do can give other people some ideas.
Secondly, I do not watch TV. I think that it is one of the great tragedies of our society. Now, there are a few good shows and I do have a TV and subscribe to cable, though it is the most basic of the basic, in order to watch a little weather and news. I do enjoy Antiques Roadshow and CBS Sunday Morning but that is about it. Television has just become a great cancer on our brains and society has formed some very unhealthy and frankly, disturbing habits and tastes due to it's influence. Now, I know I may sound like a nut to some at this point but some of the shows I see on TV nowadays are just gross. There seems to be some kind of morbid obsession with watching crime shows and situations that promote conflict or just outright severe hostility towards complete strangers (such as the spouse swapping shows etc). Now, I don't mind the occasional cop show but what, there are like 42 different ones now? And they take great delight in physically showing, in graphic detail, every possible way in which a person can be mutilated in death. I don't get this and if it's not that type show it's some cartoon that is just filled with juvenile "shock' humor. To me, that stuff is thought up by people that are not smart enough to be witty or clever. Everything is about degrading, embarrassing or humiliating another person and I am disheartened to see that our society apparently embraces that crap. We are being taught to be stupid and mean to each other.
I realize there are some good documentaries and nature programs on and I enjoy them also but for the most part, it really makes me wonder if the rest of the world really likes this stuff and I'm the nut, or do people just stare at it and go on about their business, not caring what is being fed to them. And don't get me started about having a TV in your bedroom. Now, I know I'm going to offend some of you with this one but I can't help it. (Oh, God, maybe the TV has more effect on me than I thought!) LOL! Anyway, there are two things you do in the bedroom and watch TV is NOT one of them. The guys at work are always astonished that I get all worked up about this but come on! If you have a beautiful partner to share your bed with, please, turn the damn TV off. And I don't mean you have to, uh, well, you know, but you could just talk.... or whatever. Believe me, if I had a good man to lie in my bed, that TV might even be out in the yard somewhere in a few pieces.
It is all just a symptom of the greater illness of Disconnectedness. Live your own life during the precious, little time that you have here, instead of watching someone else's fake life on TV.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Animal Magic

Yeah, this is a crappy image but I think if you click on the photo and enlarge it you can see what I was taking the picture of. Yesterday morning I was passing through my bedroom and just happen to look out the window to see 3 or 4 deer grazing around my truck. Several weeks ago Allen cut down 2 sweet gum trees (that are still laying there) and they were browsing in amongst the tree limbs. Two fairly large does and at least one baby. I think it still had some of it's spots. They come up fairly close to the house. I saw one of the does a little later behind the house as I went out onto the deck and she just stopped and watched me for a minute. I spoke to her some and she would just look at me and toss her head around as if to say, "I don't believe a word you're saying!"

I was being silly with Grendal last night and took some photos. She is giving me that 'just wait until you go to sleep' look.
Oh, and I know you all are just on the edge of your seat to know how my date went! He was nicer in person and we had a pleasant dinner but I really don't think we have much in common other than we both work construction. Of course, we talked about work some and after telling him about something work related he suddenly got this look on his face (like a bell went off) and he said, 'Oh, so you're a form carpenter! I see...I need to tell so and so she needs to get her story straight." He was referring to his friend that helped set us up. See, in construction, form carpenters are literally known as the 'yard dogs'. We are the rougher of the carpenter trades but you have 'yard dawgs' (as we say here in the south) and 'house cats'. Yard dogs are not allowed inside the buildings after it reaches a certain point of being finished because these fellows are too rough and might poop on the floor, so to speak. They are reserved for hard, outside work only. The house cats, on the other hand, are allowed in the buildings and do the work of running trim, installing door hardware etc. Strangely enough, I can be a yard dog or a house cat. I enjoy both types of work and can be clean enough to be allowed inside the building. So, anyway, it was something different to do for an evening and he told me where I could buy a boot dryer for this winter at a local store, so I did get something out of it.
Well, I am actually going to have company today!! Wow! Two friends of mine are coming up here to buy a work table from me and we are going to have lunch etc. They have never seen the place before either, so there will be lots of walking and such.

*Peter Gabriel

Friday, October 17, 2008

Touch Of Gray

Well, I'm in one of those funks again where 'm not sure what I want to post about or can't get my thoughts together enough to write anything coherent of any length. Not down, just distracted I guess. We have gone back on 5/8's now at work so I went in today even though it was raining some. It just got harder after we got tools out and then this truck pulls down into the unfinished building (he was supposed to be on the other addition) and then decides he can't get back up out of the building. The only way in and out for these 18 wheelers is up and down a hill. So, one of our boys had to halfway unload him so he could pull out. We all got wet and muddy, stomped our feet a little and pouted, so the boss said we could go home. A typical rainy day in our business. I had a bunch of errands to run in town so didn't actually make it home until afternoon.

When I did make it home, it was time for Grendal's annual bath. She has some kind of dermatitis on her back that makes her very itchy, so every once in a while I bathe her and moisturize her back. Believe it or not, she doesn't put up much of a fuss. She meows some but mostly just sits in the sink while I soap her up and rinse her off. She gets some kitty treats afterward for being so good.
So, boring post. Not much going on at the house. Work is still continuing on installation of the wood stove. I just need one more section of pipe on the outside of the house but my money has been held up from the side job I did last month, so I'm not sure when I will be able to complete this project. I'm using double walled insulated pipe because the stove came with it but I lack about 6' to reach the roof. Since I had so much of that pipe already, I'd rather go ahead and buy enough to complete it rather than start over with just regular pipe. It just looks better also.
My sister has set me up on a semi-blind date tomorrow night. I'm not really looking forward to it. I talked to the guy on the phone last night and it just doesn't look good. I hate to be pessimistic but I'm trying to keep an open mind. He might be nicer in person. I have a crappy attitude right now about some men. Not all men, just trying to date them or maybe, them trying to date me, not that I actually get that many with that on their mind. One of the main detriments I think to working around so many men and for so many years, is that I think you become sort of immune (I'm not sure the right word) to them. They lose some of their mystique, if you will. Aren't women drawn to men partially because they can do such impressive, manly things, like build and lift and demolish and such? But I know I can do all those things and often times it's not that hard, so I find myself thinking, just get the hell away from me and let me finish this on my own. Now, I know that sounds mean and bitchy but I don't think that when it is one of my real buddies that is assisting me. Just when some guy, that I can tell is trying to make some time, thinks he is going to show me how great he is or how I could profit so much by his presence. Is that mean of me? Now, I know many real, highly impressive men that I respect greatly but these bulls****ers that think I'm going to fall at their feet because they can hook up a toilet just piss me off. And it's not because I think 'I'm all that', I think I've just gotten tired and cranky. I hope this does not come off as sounding like a rant about men; it's not. I adore my men friends and they are good folks. I've just lost that ideal of finding 'the one'. There is not a match for everyone.
In the past few years, I've only been really impressed by the sheer manliness of a guy one time. I think you would know it was the Switchman. Despite our embarrassing intro, he was an unique gentleman and the guys would watch in utter amazement as I would just melt into a babbling pool of adoring goo every time this man came around. See, they are my work buddies only and as such, I never speak of any of them in a way that might suggest that I find some of them attractive (even though I do) or something similar, so they are not used to me getting all "googly-eyed" as they put it. Even now, when I fail to notice some guy they think I should or tell one to go away, they just look at each other and say, "Well, I guess he's no Switchman."

*Grateful Dead

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chew On This

Alright, ya'll have been way too quiet for too long! I know you're out there 'cuz I sees you. So, I'm going to try and make you talk. I know my readers just can't help but to try and be helpful and I need some input on something. Nothing earth shattering or anything, just some ideas.
OK, so I've run out of new, appetizing stuff to take for lunch at work. Now, before you scoff at me, food to us is very important! We have to eat certain things to be able to keep our strength up all day and I try to eat pretty healthy and organic also. Put that with the fact that we usually have to eat out in the field, where a microwave or such is a bonafide luxury and let me tell you, this job I'm on now is not fancy. We do have our tricks though, such as putting food that needs to be warmed up on the dash of our trucks or on the engine compartment of some of the machines but for the most part it helps to take food that can be eaten cool. In the summer, it's not much of a big deal because you don't feel like eating too much anyway. Just some fruit and crackers or something. But now that the weather is cooling off my appetite has returned and my girlish figure is becoming not so girlish. So, I'm trying to drop a few pounds also.
I try to have about a 50/50 mix of protein-carbs to maintain energy and avoid muscle fatigue. So, for breakfast I have a toasted cheese with a thin slice of ham or chicken on 1 piece of whole wheat bread and some unsweet tea. For morning break usually some lowfat, organic yogurt and 1/2 peanut butter sandwich (whole wheat) with a small 100 calorie Coke. Yeah, yeah, I do drink one coke a day. Today I cut out the PB sammich and just had a few crackers with my yogurt. Lunch is sometimes a ham sam or rollup or a cold pork chop or chicken leg. I'll have a small salad and some fruit and crackers too. I also sometimes take a deviled egg, some granola, lowfat spinach dip, maybe some pita bread etc. I always take 2-3 servings of fruit to eat throughout the day also. Unsweet tea with lunch.
So, any ideas for something different? And FC, the banana and a bottle of water ain't gonna do, honey. I would dry up and blow away on that! LOL! Seriously, if any of you have some ideas I would love to hear them.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday Morning

I think that Johnny Cash's "Sunday Morning Coming Down" (written by Kris Kristoferson) is probably a better known song and certainly one of the best country songs written but to me, one of the absolute most depressing songs EVER written and that wasn't what I was going for. So I went with Velvet Underground instead. It is a very gray, slightly cool morning here but very peaceful and nice. Only a very slight breeze is blowing and the woods are very hushed despite the multitude of birds flitting about. For the past 2 days the entire clearing around the house has been inundated with eastern blue birds. I have never seen so many in one spot in my life. I wish I could get some photos but they are very shy if I go out onto the deck so I watch them from the inside. I suppose they are migrating but I'm glad they chose the weekend so I could see them. I need to put up some houses for them next year. The photo is taken from behind a beautiful dogwood tree that grows beside the house. Under it is a feeder that I refilled this morning for the birds and a bath for them also. In the background is the drive and part of the garden on the left.

Just a close up of the dogwood berries. I don't know if birds eat these or not. The pile of rocks at the base of this tree, which was visible in the previous photo, will be part of my project today. As part of installing the heater, I must also start laying the stone that finishes out the exterior of the basement. I started last summer but have a long way to go.

My fall garden is coming along nicely. I think a rabbit got in yesterday morning early and chopped down one of my brussel sprouts. It was just bitten in half! You can see in the top left corner. Sprouts on the left, cabbage on the right. I planted some spinach yesterday also. The okra and peppers (surprisingly) are still going strong.

I'm not sure the variety of cabbage. I've never grown it before and am not sure what I'm going to do with it. I like it cooked fresh and may try to dry some as Molly suggested to use it soups, since I now have a dehydrator! Yea!
Well, I think a lot of my posts lately have been boring or depressing so I may have some funny stories from work for you later. I get tons of questions from people on what it's like to work with so many men, being the only woman on the job. It has led to some hilarious moments to be sure. Men are so funny and cute! How can you not love 'em?!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Everything Changes

The leaves are finally starting to change here and it is beginning to feel a lot more like fall although, as I type this I am sitting here in a tank top with the doors open and it is a comfortable 70 degrees. The photo shows some stuff I picked up at the local farmer's market last weekend or Fred picked up for me. We have several U-pick farms in the area and Fred made several trips during the summer. So thanks to him I have put up several quarts of blueberries, peaches and Mama got me some strawberries. My okra is still producing but Fred also brought me a load from his kin's garden and I pickled a half dozen pints and froze some. I am trying to switch the garden over now to fall crops and am happy to say my brussel sprouts and cabbage seem to be doing great. If I could get some old stuff cleaned out I will plant some spinach and lettuce. I was going to dry the apples but have ended up eating most of them in my lunches at work! Well, I can get some more maybe. Fred also came up with a food dehydrator for me recently. He runs a antique/junk store downtown but easily has more stuff at his house so if I say, "Fred, I need a silver-plated monkey with a gilded horse turd on it's head", he can find one. I must get some more apples though because part of the deal was to make him some fried pies!

Well, there have been a number of changes at work also. They are almost through setting the panels and the steel erectors will be there next week. We have completed most of our heavy concrete work so there was a mass exodus of men from the job yesterday. The majority of guys will go to new jobs Monday. Me and 3 or 4 other guys are the only ones left. I suspect that I will stay because they will need a welder a little later on. We heard through the grapevine that the job in Slidell, LA (the one I thought I might go to) has shut down indefinitely and another job we had in Montgomery, AL has had several guys leave that site due to lack of work, although the job has not stopped. We thought we were going to do the tilt ups on that site but they ended up subbing it out at the last minute. So, a lot of work we thought we had is not materializing. We got our raises on yesterday's checks too. Unfortunately, there was not a lot of changes there. I don't know of anyone that was particularly pleased with what they got, in fact, most were fairly pissed off. Morale in the field is the lowest I think I have ever seen it right now. Lots of talk of men going to other companies. Our office just does not seem to care about anything but loading their own pockets and think we (in the field)are so stupid that if they pay for us to attend a baseball game now and again that we will be happy with that. Don't get me wrong, I think company outings are fine. I always enjoyed our company picnic when they had them, but these men in the field have children to feed. Throwing some tickets to a baseball game or amusement park to us every once in a while is just not going to cut it when our pay fell behind inflation several years ago. Hhmmm. This all sounds familiar doesn't it. Maybe my company has been watching the government too much lately.
Well, I have my last 3-day weekend. We go back on 5-eights next week so I'm going to try to make a big effort on the heater and garden. My sister and her family are coming to town tonight for a football game and a work buddy of mine is also in town for a side job so I might have company today!! Wow! Well, got to get to work!


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning

The title of this post (and subject matter) and the photo don't have anything to do with each other. I've just been listening to Willie quite a bit lately and didn't realize until I was downloading the photo that it is "first thing this morning" too! I just thought it was a pretty sunrise the other morning and happen to get a shot.
The title and the subject matter are kinda related in that sometimes, when it seems that things are trying enough as it is, Life just wants to really push us further than we can go. However, as I have sometimes learned although not part of the song, if you will go ahead with it, there is often a lesson or some benefit to it. This post is also mainly for a friend; someone who's words meant a great deal to me many years ago, although I'm sure he is completely unaware. Often times random things we say in the course of conversation can really hurt or help the other person without us ever knowing but this event turned out to be a great benefit to me even though it started out badly in my mind.

This post is not a downer but does have some serious content at first so if you prefer lighter fare I won't be offended if you go on to the next blog. Except you Buddy, you keep reading. Fifteen years ago, during the last week of September, my brother died at his own hand. For many years afterward I had a lot of trouble accepting this and often blamed myself for his actions. I was the last person to speak to him or see him alive. It wore on me for a long time and I constantly questioned what I could have done to have stopped him or changed something. Now, at the time of his death I was working at a large, old church on the south side of Birmingham. That was the last place I ever saw my brother, so for many years, and really even to this day, I avoided even that neighborhood. We lived about a quarter mile from this church also, so I didn't want to be around there at all.
Well, skip ahead about 5 years, I'm newly divorced and living north of Birmingham. The personnel director for my company called and asked me to go run some trim at a church. It was a small job, just one carpenter and the superintendent were all that was needed and I'd only be there about a week. The church was over on the south side of Birmingham, not the one, but right next door. In fact, you could literally stand between the 2 churches, stretch out your arms and touch both buildings at the same time.
Well, when would I be needed there? Oh, the last week of September. Just that week.
Couldn't they get someone else? There are better trim carpenters than me! Nope. No one else is available.
I couldn't really say, "I can't go" and didn't want to get into why. It's highly frowned upon in our business if you refuse to go to a certain job without very good reason so, having just turned out as a journeyman, I felt that I had to just suck it up, as they say. After all, it was just for a few days but God, what a slap in the face. I mean, any other time of year or any other place but this!
So, I made it through the first couple of days but my mind was really working on me and I felt myself becoming quite depressed. The third day was the exact anniversary of my brother's death and I was really struggling to make it all the way to quitting time. So, at lunch the superintendent and I were sitting around chatting about various things, when he started telling me about his wife and family. As far as I know, he was unaware of my situation so I'm not sure what brought that subject or the one that followed up, it's been 10 years after all, but we talked on and then he started telling me about his wife's grandfather, I think it was. It might have been his grandfather but at any rate, this man had told him (my boss) that years before something had happened to him and it really brought him down. He became very depressed and finally one day decided that he could no longer take it. He took a loaded gun and went outside, I think to the barn. He was completely alone and had all the freedom to carry out his plan. No one was there to stop him. As he sat there for a few moments collecting himself, his thoughts turned to his granddaughter. She was very young and he loved his granddaughter very much, so much so that he decided that was the one thing that he could stand to live for.
It was like someone had turned a light on in my head. Though we really want to help our loved ones, everyone is ultimately responsible for themselves. You can't make people do what you thing is best for them, we all have to find our life on our own. Whether you choose to believe in God or another person or the greater collective of mankind, each person must have something to hold on to. You can only hold on to someone's hand for so long after they've let go. I didn't say anything at the time for whatever reason but from then on the load seemed a little lighter and I began to accept what had happened. I will always miss my brother and still feel somewhat that I could have done more but I have a better understanding of things now.
So, when things get rough for me or it seems that I'm being asked to "take one on the chin" I try and remember that there may be something in it for me after all. Maybe a chance to learn or see from a new perspective. And thank you Buddy, for sitting down and having lunch with me that day. You may not remember that job but I always will.

*Willie Nelson

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Some Like It Hot

I had to work Friday so I did not get as much done this weekend as I hoped but still managed to do a fair amount and the heater in now in the basement! It's nowhere near hooked up but it's there. And the extra money I made by having to work over will help buy the additional flue pipe I need. This freaking thing is heavy. Allen and I had a time getting it loaded onto my truck and poor ol' Blue now has his first dent, dang it. But anyway, I'm ecstatic to have this heater. It is going to help out so much this winter. I have to check the specs for this stove and make sure I have the proper clearances against the wall etc. but I don't think there will be much problem there. I will also have to remove those center two windows and make a solid section of wall for the pipe to pass through but that is OK. I might can use those 2 windows in a chicken house or studio or something.
I have also found some drawings for a water heating system using wood burning stoves. It looks fairly simple to do; just divert the water on it's way to the electric water heater, pass it through a coil system next to the wood heater and send it on it's way back to the electric heater. If it's not all the way to temperature, it's at least preheated so that the electric heater doesn't have as much to do. A shutoff valve lets you bypass the system in the summer.
I've got some cleanup to do on the heater, put the doors back on and replace the stone in the floor of the heater but it was hardly used and in great shape. It has been a little cool here lately in the mornings but it will still be a while before any real heat is needed.

This end of the basement looks great, right? You should see the other end! Looks like a cyclone hit it but I'm slowly getting stuff cleaned up. I had to practically empty one end and clean it up to get the heater in. This let me build this really great shelving unit though. I love this thing! I think it came out well to have made the design up as I went. As you can see, maybe, it holds all of my stained glass supplies with the glass standing up and sorted by color so I can see what I have at a glance. It is right next to the kiln so I have a few supplies for that in here too. I didn't have time but plan to put up some shelves for gardening supplies and hand tools also. I cleaned up the yard some and got a lot of salvaged materials stored in our bone yard away from the house, so it makes things look a lot better.
Today I took a little time and went to the big art/craft festival int his area where I used to sell my pottery some years. I was curious how the economy has affected such things and just wanted to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather. The show was very busy and most vendors said they had done pretty good business. I was rather surprised.
Anyway, I saw the Queen, Rurality! and spoke with her and hubby for about an hour and a half. They are doing well but very busy so she has just fallen out of the blogging habit for now. She has possible plans for a triumphant return though, so maybe it won't be too much longer.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Last Time

OK, this is my last post on tilt up panels, I promise. I think subjects like this are just extremely boring to most people or kinda weird. I think most people look at heavy construction like this and just say, why would anybody even want to be around that? One slip and you're flat as a pancake. Yes, quite a few men have been killed by these things but it is still a relatively safe way to build. Anytime you go into a Lowe's or similar warehouse type store, you are usually in a tilt-up building. There are even tilt-up houses on a small scale. Anyway, this photo shows the guys attaching the shackles to a panel, getting ready to pick it up.

We pour these nice smooth panels and put a pretty finish on them and then bust these holes in the face of them! The lifting eyes are set in the panel, wired to the rebar, and then the concrete poured around them. They have these little plastic caps set just slightly under the surface that will form a little void around the eye and allow you to finish the mud smoothly over the whole panel, with just about 1/2" of concrete to span over the lifting eye. This lets you to get a smooth finish on the next panel poured on top and still be able to bust out that thin layer of concrete over the eye.

Sometimes the panels need a little encouragement to let go of the one below it. We spray a bond breaker between panels but the concrete can sometimes still stick. The man there takes what we call a spike and jams it in the crevice between the panels, prys just a little while the crane holds a little pressure on it and POP! it lets go.

Then they just pick it on up. You might think that in this position the weight of the concrete would cause the panels to break right here but they are actually quite flexible. I saw a very large panel bow, what looked like, about 16" without breaking.
When they get the panel up and out of our area, we run over and jump on the next panel down to bust out the lifting eyes etc. and prepare that next one to be picked up. We needed our small jackhammer so I ran over to get it (they had borrowed it for drilling) and saw that it was laying just about in front of the panel they were now setting. They had the panel resting on the wall but no braces on it yet so I thought to myself, well, it's safe enough, those guys are all around it and it didn't look like they were attempting to move it any, just preparing to put the braces on. So I start towards the drill and about that time the panel shifted, the end closest to me swung off the wall about 2 feet and hit the panel next to it which I was directly in front of! This makes a loud noise as you can imagine and the whole row of panels shake. I didn't think I was still able to move that fast. What made me move faster was when I looked behind me and saw one of the panel crew right behind me. He was hauling ass too and I didn't stop until I was about 50 feet away. Of course, the guys asked me later what was I getting so excited about.

This guy is a worker that you hardly ever see anymore, if fact, I wasn't sure who he was until later but he is an "oiler". An oiler's job is to look after the crane. He stays on it's back most of the time, except when it's walking, and he cleans it and feeds it and obviously, oils it. He gets down when it moves to another location and walks along with it to make sure it doesn't step on anything and has plenty of clearance to get where it's going. I'm not sure why you don't see oilers too much anymore, and you might in other areas such as up north, but they don't use them much here anymore.

One other story for you: Yesterday, I was talking to the panel crew foreman while standing next to his truck. During the conversation I happen to notice several watermelon laying in the bed. I guess I kinda smiled and he asked me if I wanted some. I tried not to start laughing; I knew he meant the watermelon! **(Long time readers will know what I'm talking about) He picked out the prettiest one and gave it to me. I thanked him kindly and put it in my cooler. When I hauled it out at lunch and presented it to my guys they all looked surprised.
"Where'd you get that?!"
"That nice foreman gave it to me".
They all started snickering and cutting their eyes at each other, "you and your watermelon...hey, wasn't it about this time exactly last year that.....?"
"Just hush and eat the dang melon!"

** New readers go here, to read the original story. It's worth it.

* The Rolling Stones