Archive for the ‘Car’ Category

36 Yards of Concrete… So Far

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

For the past few weeks, Johnson Brothers Construction has been under our house, in our basement, digging, pouring, and propping. As will happen over 90+ years, our well-built house had developed some rather significant dips and sags. The original stone foundation needed some help. We hired Johnson Brothers based on several credible references, one calling them “the Click and Clack of foundation repair.” They brought lots of neat tools, and yes, that is a tractor in (really under) the house.




Then there are the “while you’re at it” sub-projects. Such as, “while you’re at it, why don’t you put a safe room down there,” or “while you’re at it, why don’t you dig this section of the basement out deeper so I can use it as shop space.” Actually, these are both good ideas, and added less than 20 percent to the cost of the initial project of stabilizing the house. We’ll keep telling ourselves this.

The concrete trucks have been out 3 times, first for the footings, then the walls, and late last week one more load for the new slab. The most impressive structures are the three-foot thick retaining walls that went up on the south and east sides, holding back the hill. They were designed to be so wide in order to wrap over the top of two original stone retaining walls that were failing. While taking a break from digging the footings, the guys heard a loud noise. Yes, one of the walls had collapsed. While scary, no harm was done. I’ve now got a nice pile of project stone in the back yard.


They use a concrete pump to get the concrete into the house. This saves them time and agravation as compared to trying to get the huge truck behind the house, close enough to use the chutes, or even worse, hauling by hand.



A French drain was installed under the new walls, piped into a new sump pump. Heavy plastic was placed under the new slab. It should be a dry place for my wood shop.

They are also installing several new beams supported by steel posts. The most impressive of these went up last week – the main beam for the house. They raised the center of the house five inches! My front door actually locks now!!


They plan to wrap up the project this week. All that remains is the installation of a few more beams (there will be a total of 9), and the safe room. It will be constructed of concrete block. The concrete truck will be out one more time to complete the safe room.

Once all is done the basement will contain roughly 800 square feet of shop space, a 3/4 bath, the safe room, new stairs up to the family room (from the existing garage), and a dumb waiter. I’ll post again when the safe room is complete. I know, it’s only a basement, but it’s the first real construction we’ve done.

(by Don)

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Dadgum it! Accident Magnet Strikes Again!

Monday, February 18th, 2008

My car got hit. Again. This is the third fourth time* since September 2006, when I bought it. New. This time, by an unattended car.

Don and I spent an hour together at the house Saturday morning because the Little One spent the night with my folks and a girl cousin. I took down two layers of ceiling tiles from the upstairs future/former porch. Two layers. With furring strips in between, but Don took down the furring strips. Then the Little One and I went to drama class and then home for lunch, while Don stayed at the house and pulled nails.

I went to the Fayetteville Public Library Saturday afternoon when Don came back from pulling nails. It was rainy. My books were due. I wanted to learn about doors and native plants. (I have a feeling I’m about to get compulsive about native plants now that my native rock wall is nearly done.)

I parked in the beautiful parking garage, went in, renewed a few books. (Still reading Jekyll’s Water and Wall Gardens. The Little One was still reading some of her books.) Found a couple of Taunton Press books about doors. (Thinking about exterior, folding doors to our future/past porches. Or French doors. Or something to open onto our porches.) Found two or three books about native plants. Found a book for the Little One. Saw a colleague who teased about the number of books.  Checked them out and found the car. Walked around the car to put books in passenger seat. Walked back.

Thought idly about the car backing out, “It really needs its lights on.”

Heard a crunch and a shriek. (The shriek was mine.)

Heard a lady near the entrance to the library hollering, “Are you OK?”

Answered, “Yes.  I think so.  But my car was smashed and there’s nobody in the other car.” (Or something like that, only less coherent.)

She offered to come up the parking ramp and check on me, which seemed like a good idea. So she did, while I wondered how long it would take to find a person whose car has just rolled into yours. She looked at the car that was embedded in my car and recognized it.

It was hers. She offered a hug, while I thought about how the Little One could have been smashed by that car if she had come with me. Or I could have. But, nobody was, just this stupid accident magnet car.

She was more shaken than I was — probably because she’s not used to her car attacking other vehicles — but it’s not like it’s her fault. My car is the accident magnet; hers just happened to be the, ahem, vehicle to accomplish it this time. We exchanged cards — we’re both working for the same entity — and I’ll get yet another body shop estimate this week. Seems to me the last bumper replacement was between $500 and $600.

Here’s a picture — very boring, just a poorly illuminated cracked bumper, nothing much to look at here.

Cracked bumper

Not sure how many times my car has to be hit before I get the hint.

*First: October 2006 (before my first car payment): Rear-ended by high school senior. Her question: “Why were you stopped? The light was green.” My answer: “Traffic in front of me was stopped.” Her dad was grateful that I didn’t call her insurance company. Bumper replaced.

Second: December 2006: Waiting to turn left at a light. A hubcap flung itself at my car. Thunked the driver’s side door. A little scratch, but nobody stopped to check on me.

Third: August 2007: Coming down my parents’ driveway. Contractor (who was fifteen minutes late) ran into me at great speed. Rendered my car undriveable, and my dad had to drive his truck down the hill and around my car so I could get to work. $6k damage. Rented a Titan for a month. It was even bigger than our F150.

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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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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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Moving is moving. With photo of car

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

Packers packed the almost-adopted orphan yesterday.  Emptied the storage unit and stopped that contract.  (Or, rather, husband did.)  Arranged to stop most of the utilities. (Or, rather, husband did.)  Movers are supposed to load and leave today.  Husband is supposed to leave Chicago (and arrive in Fayetteville!) tomorrow.  Closing is supposed to be Friday.  Stuff is supposed to show up here on Tuesday.  Still some niggling odds and ends, but that’s what lawyers and Realtors are for.  (And husbands.)  I hope.

Car was towed to body shop, and the insurance company gave the go-ahead to start estimating, etc.  I was interviewed today about the accident.  Sounds like the insurance companies may conclude it was, indeed, an accident on both parts.  It’s been 15+ years since I’ve had to deal with crushed cars and insurance.  I’d forgotten how time-consuming it is – I hope it goes better this time.  (Last time, my car was innocently parked on the street, and it was knocked twenty feet.  Lots of rear-end damage, an uncooperative insurance company for the accident-causer, and it was hard to get it completely repaired.  The air-conditioning turned out not to work, and there was a leak we didn’t find for several months.  Ugh.)

Crushed Car

At least, I’ve owned it almost a year now, so it doesn’t feel quite as new.  It’s been nearly nine months since the last time it was hit.  The first time it was hit, I hadn’t made a payment on it yet.  (High school student who didn’t see that traffic was stopped, just that the light was green.  Rear-ended and dinged my bumper.)  The second time, I was waiting at a light to turn left, and a hubcap flung itself into my car.  A small scratch and a very loud thump.  This time was worse.

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