JUNE - JULY 2006

JUNE 5, 2006
Today was a big day. Nearly a year ago we met with lighting designers. Although we're trying to scrimp and save at every turn, after attending a lighting seminar, we realized there is no such thing as a "Lighting for Dummies" manual. It's much much more than choosing a ceiling fan, a table lamp, and some recessed cans. It involves a myriad of elements: low voltage lighting, deciding on lamp (we call them bulbs) wattage, knowing what exactly you're trying to light and for what purpose, and placement. Waaay too much for us to get a good handle on - especially since we've collected all kinds of things over the past twenty years or so and we want to see them and not shove them in a drawer. So, we opted to hire designers. We've emailed them photos of our "old" place so they could see our collections and also gave them architectural plans to the house.

Today they made their first on-site visit. It took three hours. There were hundreds of questions on both sides, a complete walk thru including room color, furniture placement and artwork. On and on. To make it easier on all of us, I printed out color pictures from our old home which showed various wall and shelf art as well as the interior paint palette. In addition, I printed out pictures of our mostly newly purchased decorative ceiling fixtures. And it looks like I must give up two ceiling fans; one for the kitchen and one for the master bath, because they just won't "work" in the space. (I took advantage of a discount and a sale a year and a half ago. They were special order through Home Depot and they should be willing to let me return them for a restocking fee.)

It'll be months down the road until the next visit.

JUNE 6, 2006
Think I told you that when our pond was being installed, the equipment ran over a can of fluorescent marking paint which exploded all over my beautiful
burgundy basalt retaining wall. Today Jeff arrived to "undo" the unexpected "artwork" and did a pretty darn good job.

The landscaping is just overwhelming for me. I tell friends, I'm not into the Zen of gardening - just want the results. And when you're lugging around hoses and shoveling compost, it really drives home just how big this piece of land truly is. After a talk with Jeff, he finally drummed into my head that I'm getting ahead of myself. We've gone about as "fer as we can go" at this point and must wait until the exterior of the house is complete before we can make any more decisions. Actually, I'm relieved.

So now, all I have to do is water what we have already planted which, with the exception of a few key plants, mainly consists of grasses and wildflowers. But that's no small order. Since a sprinkler system would end up costing thousands, we've opted for a
"network" of hoses with various sprinkler devices. Hopefully, once these plants are established, they'll more or less take care of themselves. After all, the surrounding forest doesn't have sprinklers! I know that the wildflowers will look positively crappy when late fall and winter set in. And I'll just have to suck it up and live with that. Already one of the plants Jeff sold to me has been devoured. Don't know if it's deer or another critter. No matter. All I need is to be "burned" once and that's it for that plant. I'm not going to add stress to my life by worrying about it; I'd rather have the wildlife!

Greg has been trying to get back to the roof, but rain has made that impossible. At two stories in the air,
we're taking every safety precaution and I don't want him slipping on a wet roof. But he was able to install temporary downspouts for our gutters to help defer water away from the foundation. It's going to take well into the summer, when we've had lots of sunny days, to really dry out the ground that got soggy before the gutters were installed.

JUNE 8, 2006
It was pouring rain today. No matter, we took advantage of free and easy watering and sowed grass and wildflower seeds. We were soaked by the time we finished!

JUNE 11, 2006
We now tell people when they ask when we're moving in..."the twelfth of never"! All we want to accomplish by year's end is completing the roof, most of the siding, and installing all the exterior doors so that we can make the place weather proof and secure. And that entails many other necessary steps including installing plumbing and electrical that go through the roof or exterior.

In preparation for our stone mason, Greg's been using the rainy/cloudy days to complete the front door jamb so the stonemason has something to work to. Greg has already put up the Gothic arch top to the door frame and now he's added the final outer piece and
secured it with clamps to make the bend.

JUNE 16, 2006
While Greg continues prepping the front door area for the stone mason, Excavator Les put in a full day starting the burn pile,
installing a drainage culvert, and rebuilding the north retaining wall which he dismantled for us months ago to address yet another drainage issue. Getting moisture away from this house has turned into it's own chapter.

I wanted to make sure the heat from the burnpile didn't hurt nearby trees, so
I jumped right in with the hose to wet them down. Greg insisted I use the respirator because of the heavy smoke.

JUNE 17, 2006
I spent the day cleaning up the mess created when Les installed the culvert under the driveway and parking pad. This gravel pad had to be reshaped as well as the area atop the retaining wall repair. This was my project to do as Greg took advantage of a sunny day to complete the moisture barrier for the front door staircase. The stringers are made of laminated sheets of plywood and have been exposed to the elements all winter. Greg needed to reinforce the glue in some places and then decided to
add a heavy duty adhesive for good measure - an ounce of prevention.....

Moving the earth by hand is exhausting work...especially for a species that doesn't have the upper body strength of a male. Moving rocks and shovels full of dirt is definitely burning up lots of calories.

By the end of the day, I had put the pad back together...
more or less. And tamped down the dirt above the retaining wall with a 40 pound hand tamper (basically a heavy flat piece of metal at the end of a wooden pole).

And inbetween that, I watered newly planted seeds to get ground cover started and tended to our burn pile.

JUNE 18, 2006
Greg and I stirred the burn pile and I installed jute (a heavy rope-cloth used for landscaping) to hide the last of the liner at the back of the pond and also
to hold back bare ground on a steep hill going down into our ravine. Greg took some scrap wood to make a makeshift bridge across what will eventually be our dry drainage creekbed. It looks just funky enough to end up being the "final" bridge.

JUNE 20, 2006
More manual labor for me as I dug out around our front culvert in prep for adding drainage rock around the opening.

I'm also spending lots of time finishing off little landscaping details so that, come the warmer summer months, I can concentrate on several painting and staining projects.

JUNE 23, 2006
I've added some more plants to our landscaping, keeping in mind the eating habits of the wildlife. I've been told they don't like
smoke trees or California lilac (something I never saw in California!). My main color scheme for plants is burgundy, deep yellow, purples, and blues, and these two plants fit right in.

Meanwhile, native spring wildflowers and foliage are in full bloom. There's
foxglove, Oregon grape - with grapes, Nootka rose, thimbleberry, star flower, salmonberry - both orange and red, salal in flower, and a very nice wild groundcover. One man's weed is another man's prized plant...and I'm making friends with as many weeds as possible in keeping with the natural landscaping, and my hope that it will mean less work for me in the future.

JUNE 28, 2006
While I've been working at home, Greg is finally getting a good go at the roof since the sun has been out all week. It amazes me that he's able to do this without any assistance. Not only the installation, but hoisting up the tools and materials as well.

JUNE 30, 2006
Water, water, water. I know this is beginning to sound like the Department of Redundancy Department, but water is a destroyer. It can destroy wood, invite insects, create molds, erode the ground, affect a foundation. And that's just for starters. So we are trying to "think like water" and head off every opportunity for problems where we can.

Case in point, early on we put in that additional culvert at the end of the driveway. You would think this would have been part of the drainage plan we paid for (and which was required by our CC&Rs for our particular lot which is at the end of a cul-du-sac), but it wasn't. We added one anyway. And now we've
begun to create the "dry creek beds" that will dress up these features. When a culvert is involved, we pile large rocks near the opening to cut down on the possibility of silt blocking the opening. Then we fill the bottom with medium-sized round rock called "bull rock" (a smaller version is called "drainage rock"). That's all we'll do here for now. Later, I'll work on making this dry creek bed more natural.

Constantly running from one project to another, Greg puts in some time
working on the roof over the kitchen/diningroom area.

One thing I've learned while working on this project, men can indeed mutitask!

Ever start a task and then you realize you need to complete something else before you can do it? Well, this happens constantly on a construction job. Before Greg could make any headway on this section of roof (or any section for that matter), safety comes first. And so
anchors must be installed at the peak of the roof in order to attach safety gear. Here Greg must somehow contort his body to reach in through the inside of the peak to install them. I realize while watching him the incredible physicality of this type of work. You're always bending your body to reach into an area. And then, add to that, working with heavy tools.

This ain't no work for sissies.

JULY 11, 2006
We're back "on the job" after a much needed week's vacation entertaining out-of-town guests. Before that, we spent time fine-tuning our "sophisticated" watering system and Greg continued to do prep work for the stone mason. This requires thinking ahead to allow for
perforations through the stone for various elements such as propane tank dials, septic controls, and hose bibs to name a few.

Yesterday, our excavator
Les dug out the area for our dry creek for water drainage alongside the driveway. I have a lot of work to do making this required feature look natural like my friend Jill's who did an envious job at her house. Today Les smoothed out our burn pile which is still smoldering and now there is a summer burn ban. We were lucky that we had a bit of a shower this afternoon to help quench the fire but I'll still have to spray it with the hose, otherwise, that thing could keep burning for weeks.

More water stopgaps. It seems there are dozens of ways water can create problems and we're trying to again think ahead to save ourselves heartache later. We have added what we think is
the last culvert in the driveway. This one is midway between the previous one we added that runs across from the bottom of the front stairs and under the parking pad and the one at the end of the driveway. Les dug out a channel, then Greg and he buried it. Of course, all this digging up of our "interim driveway" made of big chunks of reject cement a mini-nightmare. These big chunks are now creating easy opportunities to twist your ankle. We used the reject cement when we first created the driveway because it was inexpensive and also because we knew big equipment would be running over it and smash it down. Like so many other projects, it's one step forward and two steps back. You install/create/design something and then in the course of dealing with something nearby, your efforts are for naught.

JULY 15, 2006
Don't let anyone tell you different: dirt is HEAVY!!!

I've been working like a dawg digging up wheelbarrows full of dirt and moving them to another big dirt pile down the driveway. Then
digging up piles of drainrock and taking them down to the other end of the driveway to dump into the pit left from the culvert installation. And then adding sand and dirt at the base of the front staircase. This must be done to bring the ground to the same level as the cement pad at the base of the steps. I use a pick axe and shovel, and then down on my knees with small shovels, and then finally reduced to pawing up earth with my hands to shape the drainage pathways.

I've been trying to design how the base of this staircase will work. There's the staircase, the dry creek bed just before it, the driveway, and the consideration of access. Until we actually dug out this creek bed area, I didn't have a good visual on the size of the area between the base of the steps and the driveway. Now I realize it's much smaller than I imagined, as you can see from the previous picture. Early on I was intent on using quartzite pavers between the creekbed and the base of the stairs. Now I realize it's much too small for that. And, too, there's the problem of negotiating the creek bed. So we have rethought our design and will continue the stair treads as a bridge across the creek bed.

JULY 16, 2006
Details! Details!! Details!!! Greg has spent days and days and days prepping for the stonemason. I can assure you, no contractor on a job would put this much thought into this endeavor. And that's because this is our house, our home.

Greg has added flashing where siding will meet the stone. He has added
moisture protection, Grace Vycor, at the bottom of the sheeting to protect against rainwater splashing up against the foundation and prevent it from wicking up under the stone. He's installed flashing over the garage doors and built door jambs. He's thought in detail where the stone will end and other materials begin so the stonemason doesn't have to start and stop. All the details are thought out before he even begins the job. On a typical job "back home", all these details would have been noted in depth on the plans. That doesn't seem to be the case here. We're lucky Greg is a master at so many aspects of this project. But if you don't know how to accomplish something, there's always the internet.

Meanwhile, now that I have a few minutes to look around, I notice that our landscaping is beginning to
"green up". All that time watering, not to mention the water bill, is paying off.

JULY 19, 2006
Part of the fun of this project is finding places to use elements we already have. Case in point, we have a
cement wall plaque that was part of our garden back in California. It's a beautiful enigmatic piece. In order to give it the "patina of age", I took a common fertilizer, iron sulfate, wet the surface down, and applied a solution of the fertilizer. In a short time, the iron mixed with the cement and gave it a rusted look.

I knew I wanted to use it here, but where? Then Greg came up with a great idea. Why not use it to break up a large section of stone wall between our garages? Perfect. But this set him on a journey of invention. The object was to have water cascade down her face (as opposed to drilling a hole in her mouth). This would require some type of half bowl just under the plaque. Should be a simple thing to find. Wrong. As good as Greg is finding items on the internet, he couldn't come up with anything that would work. Either it was too big, or too small, or made of resin instead of concrete. So, the only alternative was to create one. Back to the internet to find out how to make a cement mold. The answer was sand. And we just so happened to have a bunch of "natural" sand on the property. Which puts into play a time-and-money-saving philosophy: use what you have.

In order to make the sand mold, you have to think in the negative. Greg made a simple box out of wood scraps,
reinforced it with a metal armiture, and then filled it with wet-down sand, adding just enough water to allow the sand hold its shape. Thinking "inside out" he began to shape the bowl using simple tools like a plastic spoon.

Next, using a mixture of fast-setting(??) cement with a fiber mesh additive to give it strength, he poured the mixture into his mold all the while poking gently into the mixture with a stick to eliminate air bubbles and air pockets. Then he
smoothed off what would end up being the underside of the bowl.

While Greg was making our fountain bowl, he made extra mixture to create a
heavy base for another piece of garden art - a metal egret which we placed in our pond.

Now the piece was
ready for curing. Cement doesn't dry, it cures. It's a chemical process. We put our piece under a plastic tarp to seal in the moisture which actually strengthens the cement during the curing process. I was surprised how hot the cement felt to the touch while it was curing.

JULY 20, 2006
The fountain bowl has cured enough to allow us to
remove it from the mold. Then we gave it a good hosing off with a stiff brush to remove any loose material. We also needed to burn off pieces of the fiber mesh. As you can see, try as we might, there were still gaps in the piece and the surface was very rough - unlike our plaque which is smooth. To correct this, we made a slurry (a watery mixture) of fast-drying cement to fill in the gaps and then applied it over the entire piece while wearing latex gloves to give it a smooth finish. Later I'll apply the fertilizer mixture to rust it up so it will match the plaque.

Greg applied
a sheet of the moisture barrier before installing our fountain, taking advantage of any opportunity to prevent water from seeping into the walls and creating mold. And again thinking ahead, Greg designed the fountain so the pump and other parts were easily accessible from inside the garage.

Still working on prep for the stonemason. This project just keeps growing as Greg thinks of more and more "plan ahead" necessities. This time it's the handrails that will eventually enclose the front porch. After a discussion of height and placement,
Greg created a temporary piece for the mason to work around so that when the time comes there'll be space for the installation.

More on the "use what you have" philosophy: because of the dry creek bed which will basically encircle the house, we're having to build several bridges. One will be required at the base of the front stairs. Although the finished product is a long way off, we still have to use the stairs. Using a left over palette from some building supplies and some scrap plywood, Greg made us
a makeshift bridge.

And I'm gearing up for this creek bed project. It's going to be extremely labor intensive. To get started, I'm picking out some rocks I think I'll be using and
"staging" them along the creek sides.

Although we're trying to save money at every turn, sometimes there's a "must have" item. For me it's a pile of
green gravel (front pile). This gravel is hard to find and, in fact, I've only found it in one place and unfortunately it was two hours from our house. Translation: embarrassingly expensive. I'm not sure where I'll be using it exactly, but some of it will be placed around the base of the foundation. In California, I loved the look of shrubs and flowers planted close to the base of the house - it gave it an established look. But here again, with dampness a concern, I'm looking for an interesting alternative. And, the unusual green color will work well with my hand-picked green rocks for the creek bed, visually pulling it all together.

JULY 21, 2006
Today Greg has me digging in the dirt to
expose the base of the rain gutters around the exterior of the house to make sure they're free of debris and properly connected. Later on these black ribbed pipes will be replaced with architecturally pleasing ones.

JULY 27, 2006
Big Day!
The stonemason has begun! As with anything else, it's the prep that takes the time. Trev's prep includes setting up his scaffolding and installing the black paper and lath which will hold the stones, and staging the pieces he'll be using.

Our stone product is manufactured by Eldorado Stone. It's a faux or cultured product and when done well, you can't tell it from the real thing. Not only is it easy for the stonemason to install, it's lightweight which means you save money on your foundation and framing materials. Otherwise, with the real thing, you'd have to beef it up. Greg and I decided that we are not in love with the
Eldorado Stone escutcheons, the components that hold the light fixtures. They're too big and the color doesn't work for us. So Greg made a mold out of some foam insulation sheets (again "use what you've got") and created some custom ones. The square box in the middle allows for the electrical box. Later we'll add some slurry to match our grout.

Greg worked on
mounting the wall fountain. I can't tell you how many trips it's taken to a half dozen hardware stores to create this cascade of water. Finding a small recirculating pump which didn't require being placed in the bowl was a real challenge. Trial and error (mostly error) was the exasperating theme. After Greg got to this point, he realized we'd have to find something to hide the piping. And we're racing against time with this project because we don't want to hold up the mason. In the last picture you can see the end result of the fertilizer application to rust the bowl.

JULY 28, 2006
Trev begins to apply the
scratch coat which gives the stone something to hold to.

Because the stones will be directly below the stained staggered edge Hardie planks, we need to work on just the right grout color to tie both materials together. The color additive for the grout is expensive and so we're making up small batches for sampling and then using it up on the lath. It took three or four tries, but we got a shade that works. I'll be sure to make a note of the formula for any future repairs.

JULY 29, 2006
The landscaping projects are really gearing up. But the big project of the day was erecting a snag (a dead tree) we found on the property. Why? A snag is an excellent habitat for wildlife and wildlife is just what I want to encourage here at .

Les dug a deep hole, then positioned the snag into it. My two workers, Jarret and Evan, then somehow - 'cause this thing is huge and heavy - held it upright while Les pushed the dirt back in the hole. Then Jarret and Evan tamped down the dirt to plant it solidly in the ground.

After Les finished, I spent the rest of the day supervising my workers and getting ready to begin my dry creek bed. In some areas, the drainage channel that will become the creek bed is deep. In order to save money by saving my decorative drainage rock (which will represent the water for the creek), I'm packing the deeper sections with left over
reject cement which was used to give our eventual driveway a good base for the final crushed gravel topping. We're holding off on putting down the final gravel topping until after move in when the last of the heavy equipment will be needed. The gravel will be a less expensive alternative to cement or asphalt but, of course, isn't as long lasting.

JULY 30, 2006
In addition to creating our own custom escutcheons for installing our exterior lights, Greg also came up with the idea of making custom keystones, a design feature which will go above the garages and some windows. Since we're and, thus, are using a
man in the moon weathervane to crown our home, we've carried over the celestial motif by adding some metal stars on the exterior. Greg used one of the stars to make an impression into the keystone (next to the keystone is one of the escutcheons).

JULY 31, 2006
With much trepidation on my part, today I begin the creek bed. I've seen them done poorly, and I've seen them done right. My friend Jill's is definitely
done right. She was a graphic artist and has an "eye", so I picked her brain and took pictures, and hopefully I can create some facsimile of hers.



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