Monday, May 29, 2006

Sorry about the unexpected sabbatical. . .

It’s been a busy week.

Despite all the activity, the phone calls, opportunities, dreaming, scheming and in general feeling sort of “popular” contracting wise… The current company extended my contract through the end of the year this week. As I mentioned, all other things being equal, or maybe even not so equal, I’d rather just keep doing what I’m doing here, and be home every night, than head off 700 or more miles to a gig in another city.

So, the drama is over, we’re back on an even keel (or as even as it ever gets when you work under contract), and I feel like we can move forward with the rest of our lives once again. Not that life actually ‘stops’, but as the end of the contract draws near, there’s certainly a lot more scrutiny of the finances, worst case scenario planning etc, that doesn’t seem to happen when we’re on the front end.

We’re always working to get a 90-120 day reserve of ‘cash’, money we can access readily should I be without a contract for any period of time, but over the past couple of years, that reserve has been tapped for medical bills, prescriptions, doctors visits and a couple of large and very unexpected car repairs. So while we’ve got about 30 days of funds in our emergency account, I’m very sure this upcoming surgery will deplete that once again.

That’s probably my biggest worry, that we’ll hit the end of a contract without the reserves to weather a 3 month down cycle. For now anyway, that worry is history, at least for another six months!

I’ve also been pretty busy around the house.

You may recall in my last post that I’d intended to clean the gutters. As I prepared to do that, I found that my pressure washer would not fire up. I initially suspected that it wasn’t getting any fuel, but soon ruled that out as the problem. After a bit more tinkering on my part I decided to have a professional look at it. I’m very glad I did! I loaded it into the truck and dropped it off at Graham Tractor. For about $50 I got back a pressure washer that runs better than it ever did new!

About an hour after I dropped it off though we got this (a wind gust actually blew the spreader into the patio from the yard!):

I’m glad I wasn’t standing on a ladder when this freak storm rolled on through!!

When I started cleaning the gutters (shortly after I retrieved my pressure washer) I noticed there was some rot on a couple of the fascia boards, and that at least two sections of gutter were in pretty bad shape. I thought about replacing them, but I really had ‘heavy equipment’ plans for the holiday weekend. So, I thought, I’d just let them wait another few weeks.

However, then my first set of plans fell through (the equipment I’d been planning on renting was already promised) and the next two plans on the list involved having some additional materials hauled in, which I couldn’t get scheduled right before a holiday weekend...

I ended up replacing those fascia boards, as well as hanging some new guttering to replace the damaged sections. Amazing to me though was the fact that the downspouts were a special order thing.

What sort of sense does it make, here in North Carolina, home to monsoon type rains on a regular basis on summer afternoons, and a place that’s regularly visited by hurricanes, to only stock the small size downspout materials in brown? They only stock small downspout materials in brown, both sizes in white… who knew?

So those are ordered and should be here by the middle of next week.

I also tackled, and finished, resetting some brick in the first of three sections of a walkway behind the kitchen, this weekend. It was, however, quite a bit more work than I anticipated!

Here are a couple of before shots of the problem:

Obviously, if you notice the missing brick, the walkway was never finished when the previous owners had put it in, either due to the missing brick, poor drainage, loose materials, whatever, the walkway had also developed a nasty pitch and collected water every time it rained… not good

Just pulling up and cleaning off all of the old brick took me nearly a day. Well, a day and a half in actual time, as another Carolina summer shower shut me down on Friday afternoon, mud is not the ideal material for setting stone.

Thankfully things dried up quite a bit overnight.

On Saturday morning I set about re-grading the section by hand... well, that also took longer than I’d thought it would. In all I used 9 bags of sand, 7 bags of ‘redi-mix’ concrete and 2 bags of mortar mix, just to get the grade close to where I thought it needed to be.

I’m not entirely happy with the end result, but, it does shed water both away from the house and the wall and, maybe equally as important, away from the other section of patio as well.

I found myself having to think about level, and pitch in four directions, and the fact that I didn’t want anything exactly ‘level’, but with a slight 1/8th bubble pitch away from the house and the wall, as well as about a 3/16th bubble pitch away from the other patio.

I also wanted to retain the ‘old’ look to the walk, slightly crooked lines and some bricks a little lower and higher than others. (Hell the perfectly level and aligned thing is way too easy!)

Well, I’m nearly there… once the mortar mix dries and sets (by tomorrow morning) I can run the pressure washer over it all one last time, sweep in some final sand to fill any remaining gaps and water it all in once again.

Then, for the next two or three weekends I can continue on down the sidewalk and out into the future patio/garden area outside the kitchen window.

There’s something about working with brick, stone, mortar and the hand tools that go with that, that’s very ‘elemental’… it’s good, honest, heavy, hard work. You’ll break a sweat, especially in the sun, and pretty much keep sweating all day. There’s not much need to ‘run to the gym’ when you’ve moved around several tons of stone all day!

I wrote most of this up last night, and this morning things were still a bit too damp to work on today, so, as I usually do on this day, I've spent it remembering comrades from day gone by, and thinking about the sacrifices that have been made, so that I, would have the privilege, and freedom, to live life the way I see fit.

300,000 killed or missing in WWII, 54,000 in Korea, 58,000 in Vietnam… At least double, possibly triple those numbers in wounded… all in the belief that our way of life is, and was, worth preserving, at all costs.

On this day, I take the time to silently give thanks, to those who’ve paid the price for what I get to enjoy. Please set aside any political differences on this day, remember those brave men, and women, boys and girls really, who have made the life you live possible.

We may, or may not agree, with the actions and decisions of our political leaders, but these folks in uniform, and believe me, once you’ve worn it you never really fully take it off, deserve at least this one day, without rhetoric, of thanks.

I, for one, salute you all.

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seeingdouble said...

Happy Memorial Day! Thank you for remembering those who have and are serving, and those who paid the ultimate price.

Lorna said...

I can't believe how trippingly that story about bricks and mortar rolled off your fingertips---it looks like it was a job of the devil.

Bill said...

Crystal - You're more than welcome and Happy Memorial Day to you and yours as well!

Lorna - The story rolled off with a lot more ease than the work did, I can tell you that for sure! (It seems I'm not quite as young as I used to be)

If you look in a couple of the pics, you can see an ivy covered stump... the question posed to me now is... "can we 'shave' off the stump and move the rock wall so the walkway doesn't narrow?"

That project my friend will definitely be a blog project!

MajorDad said...

Damn! You've got WAY too much energy!

Actually, from time to time I get "handy" around the homestead myself...although I don't EVER see myself doing any more ceramic tiling or laminate flooring (actually the laminate was kind of fun and looked great!)

See you on the high ground!

No_Newz said...

That sure does look like a lot of hard work. I hope you liked the end result. :) I've been out of the blog loop for quite a while. And silly me, I thought I was busy. Hahaha, you make me look like I'm standing still.
Lois Lane

Beth said...

Did you use one of those power tampers? I was watching a show on TV and the host said that's how you get perfect settling of the brick and the sand/mortar. I'd never seen one before, but it was very cool. Anyhow, good job!

Bill said...

majordad - Naaaa.. too little energy.. too many ideas and projects!!

I always stress over tile and brick work because it's what I have the least skills in... so it always takes me twice as long and twice the work I thought it would be!

Lois - No... You're definitely the one moving fast... hell I only went about 20 feet!

Good to see you!

Beth - No.. I thought about it, probably should have, and will on the 'big project' when it comes time for that. All of this area is pretty old as in 15+ years I'd think... I'm trying to fix the drainage and the 'walking' without losing the 'aged character'... time will tell how I did!


Nice, as always to see you all!

Trevor Record said...

Happy Memorial day, Bill. I have a reserve of money too, which I am going to be dipping into since I just got laid off!! It's always hard to keep that reserve up, isn't it?

Bill said...

TrevorHappy Memorial day, to you as well!.

Sorry to hear about the job... I hate when that happens!! I hope you find something even better, and quickly.

You just exactly right about the reserve!!

Dizzy Ms. Lizzy said...

Wow - - I thought Steve and I had a lot to do - - but YOUR project makes our look like a walk in the - - well - - garden . . . :-)

Looks like you did a great job, though!