Archive for the ‘Modern house’ Category

Building a heli-pad in the labyrinth, in my dad’s words

Monday, January 7th, 2008

Why do my parents have a helicopter landing pad?  Not because they are James Bond-types.  My dad has spinocerebellar ataxia, which affects his balance, among other things, so he does fall over and need emergency care with some frequency.  My folks live out in the country, at the end of a steep, curvy driveway that gets icy, so they have the potential need for emergency evacuation by helicopter. A helicopter pad needs a big flat space, with even flatter bits in the middle for the helicopter to land on.  Hence, the labyrinth.

The picture below is a satellite view of my parents’ modern house. To the right is the labyrinth. Wending around the house is the driveway on which my car was hit, causing nearly $6k in damage early this fall. Besides being curvy, it also has some steep shady parts, so it is easy to get iced in.   (Or out.  I got stuck on the driveway coming home one night last winter.)


I lifted many of these photos and the following text from my dad’s Christmas letter almost verbatim, although rearranged and with just a few more words for context.

big-flat-hole.jpg This was a low spot in the center of the labyrinth. There is a hardpan down about 45 centimeters. It was often wet and mushy, dried slowly, and things died of “wet feet.”

dry-well.jpg Don dug it down to hardpan and then dug dry wells through the hardpan in a couple of places to let the water through.

native-stones.jpg We started with about a tonne (1000 kg.) of flat rocks. They have now all been used.

gravel.jpg We also had 7,000 liters of gravel. [The gravel has not all been used.]
in-process.jpg  [In process.]

nearly-done.jpg [Almost done.]

Then we filled the dry wells and the excavation with gravel up to about fifteen centimeters from the surface followed by about ten centimeters of pulverized limestone. Then Don leveled things, cut the rock to size, and placed it.

finished-heli-pad.jpg This is essentially the finished product and I think it looks very good. Don says that we will need to work in some more pulverized limestone as that in the cracks settle.

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Projects in a 21st Century Modern House, Ikea Kitchen

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Since we lived with my folks for nearly a year, Don has the endearing habit of making himself useful. Our in-law quarters had a little space for a kitchen (think half a hallway), which featured open shelves my dad put together from one-by-sixes and a laminate countertop, with no storage beneath.

We took a road-trip to Dallas (mostly to see my aunt and uncle and check out their most fabulous, ongoing 4-square renovation) and stopped at Ikea. We bought sufficient RTA cabinets to fill the upper wall, in part to see how hard it would be (but mostly to make that space more useful for us). It turned out pretty well.

I built the carcases one afternoon while Don and the Little One were visiting Chicago, and Don and I hung them. Don then assembled and hung the doors.  We got two kinds of doors: the regular swinging doors plus some garage-style doors that open overhead and stay open until you close them.  This project got the microwave off the countertop, and increased storage space considerably.  Not to mention making it look nice.

It’s hard to get a good picture since the kitchen is essentially a hallway, but I’ll try to get Don to take some so we can post later.  The hardest part for me was translating the pictures in the instructions into words.  I’m a lot better at words than figures, but I guess the instruction writers/illustrators were trying to avoid the hilarities that ensue when you translate one language into another.*

*I have just found a most unusual site while looking for examples of funny translations.  It is called the dialectizer, and will translate any web page into a dialect.  For example, I asked it to translate a recent entry by me into redneck.  An excerpt: 

Packers packed th’ almost-adopped o’phan yessuhterday.  Emppied th’ sto’age unit an’ stopped thet corntrack.  (Or, rather, husbin did, cuss it all t’ tarnation.)  … Movahs is supposed t’load an’ leave today.  Husbin is supposed t’leave Chicago (an’ arrive in Fayetteville!) t’morry.  Closin’ is supposed t’be Friday.  Stuff is supposed to show up hyar on Tuesday.  Still some nigglin’ odds an’ inds, but thet’s whut lawyers an’ Realto’s is fo’.  (An’ husbins.)  Ah hope.

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Other country homes

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

Now that we are about to leave my parents’ 21st century house in the country and rent a late 20th century townhouse while we try to find a suitable 19th century house to buy, I thought you might like to see where some of our nearest neighbors live.

three-mud-dauber-nests.JPG Three mud daubers‘ nests in the eaves of our breezeway.

wasp-nest.JPGA wasp’s nest (?) in the eaves.  I guess.  I’m not sure what it is, but I know we didn’t fling a lump of dirt high up in the eaves so it must belong to some other creature.  It’s been too hot for me to sit around waiting to see what lives there.

carolina-wren.JPG My favorite.  A Carolina wren‘s nest on our potting bench.  You can see her eyes and beak if you click through.  She may have abandoned it after the big blow-out last weekend since I didn’t see her or any eggs last night.  Did you know the Carolina wren sings one of the loudest songs per unit volume of bird?  Fortunately, she’s quite small.  Her French name is Troglodyte de Caroline.  (I gather that the genus name for wrens, Troglodytes, is because wrens tend to live in caves and not because wrens are ”reclusive, reactionary, out of date, or brutish.”  Word of the Day Archive.

Car update:  I picked up a rental “car” last night.  They didn’t have the Ford Focus they promised me, so I got a Chevy Silverado extended cab.  I think it’s even bigger than our F150 extended cab.  It seats six with plenty of elbow room.  Once Don gets home with our truck, I think we’ll take this one back and try for something smaller.  Waiting on estimates from the body shop so I can authorize repairs.  The estimator said it would take 1-2 weeks after the parts come in to put it back together so I suspect it’s not totaled.

Moving update:  The movers loaded up and left yesterday about 5 p.m.  All Don found that they forgot was one trash can and one iron.  Yesterday afternoon, he was emptying out the fridge, delivering leftover meds to the IVF clinic, and trying to identify “frozen things that look like ravioli, but in a medical waste resealable bag.”  Those turned out to be little icepacks from my two biopsies last fall.  He’s borrowed a broom from his mom’s house so the house will be “broom clean”, per our contract.  Closing will be mostly completed tomorrow and Don should be back here tonight.  I hung lace sheers in the townhouse downstairs last night.  ($15 for the set (four long sheers and four valances) at a garage sale in Chicago last week.)  Not quite pleased with them yet, but maybe I can rearrange them a bit more.  I’d like one more long sheer than we have, but I have some ideas.

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Projects in a 21st Century Modern House, Cat Castle

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

While living on my parents’ hill in their 21st century house, we’ve grown accustomed to sharing the hill with other animals. The family of five deer. The rapacious raccoons. The toads living under the ramp and five-lined skinks skittering through the garage. The black racer wiggling through the labyrinth and beating his head against the fence trying to escape. (Did you know they have venom in their back teeth? They’re constrictor-type snakes and not particularly poisonous to humans, but they do have venom.) The armadillo that died on our driveway. (Daddy pitched it over the side, and the buzzards brought it back. Eew.) The squirrels that are too stupid to get off our driveway in the face of cars. And, of course, the cats that were left by their POs.

Mostly, the cats ignore us and we ignore them, but in early June, one came right up to the house, mewing pitifully. My mom fed it a sausage and she became ours. She is very patient with our daughter. The cat, I mean. She lets the Little One carry her around, and doesn’t scratch her, even when she’s screeching.

And she likes me.  The cat, I mean.

My dad had caught her a year ago July in his live trap for raccoons, so she’s been living wild for a long time. Anyway, we took her to the vet. She’s healthy and … had been previously fixed. (Can’t tell until you do the surgery so she had abdominal surgery for no reason.)

Now, my dad and my sister in law are allergic to cats, so she’s an outside cat until we sell that albatross in Chicago (hoping to hear about the inspection today — it was on Tuesday, but no word yet) or at least until we move into the rental, but we don’t want her to be eaten up at night or eat the early birds so Don built a cat castle out of scrap lumber and chicken wire.

Ceefor and the Little One
Ceefor and the Little One

Little one in cat cageThe castle with the Little One

We’ve wound up not using it as much as we hoped: In its first iteration, the raccoons were able to open the door, and (after that was fixed) a mean tailless cat was climbing around on it, trying to scare Ceefor. (As in C For Cat.) So she mostly spends the nights in the garage, but she enjoys perching up high in the castle during the day, waiting for her humans to emerge and feed her. (She has been habituated to the extent that she waits for me by the kitchen door in the evening. She trots into the garage behind me, and waits for food to magically appear.)

Little One as Cat This is a gratuitous shot of our daughter, except that this post has to do with cats. (If you try clicking through, I don’t know why the full size picture claims to be missing.  Mysteries of the computer, I guess.) We saw Cats at the Walton Arts Center this summer, and they had free face painting before the show. She was a bit scared of McCavity the first time she saw it, but now is enthralled with the whole show. (We bought the DVD and watched it before we went to make sure it was OK. Now she watches it ALL THE TIME. Don had to listen to the CDs approximately one hundred and eighty-three bazillion times as they drove to Chicago in early July.)


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