pics of progress.

26Nov08

I recently wrote a post about Luke & I dealing with the depression resulting from our un-ending house-building project. Our depression, combined with the world’s longest case of the flu, is the reason that I haven’t posted anything to blog recently. Except for the weekends when we were coughing up green phlegm (and one mini-vacation weekend that we spent soaking in the Mt. Princeton hot springs), we’ve still managed to keep working on the neverending project. Because, well– we don’t have a lot of choice, quite frankly, if we ever want to have a place to live. We do enjoy working on the house (usually)– we just don’t enjoy the constant pressure to keep working, keep spending money we don’t have, and never have any time to relax. So here, for your voyeuristic pleasure, is a medley of pictures of our recent progress.

We worked on several fronts simultaneously, so these are not necessarily in chronological order.

This is Luke’s brother, Olin. He’s the one wearing a respirator. You can tell it is Olin because it says so on the sleeve of his Leadville 100-mile bike race sweatshirt. (“I rode the world’s most hellish 100-mile mountain bike race, and all I got was this lousy sweatshirt?”) He is holding a contraption that we invented in the depths of our garage, using the following everyday items:

1.) My pre-marital angle grinder. (By pre-marital, I mean that it was a tool I owned before meeting Luke, which therefore must be handled with strict adherence to the Mezoff rules of proper tool care.)

2.) A $2.99 diamond blade purchased on Ebay, (normally $20+ at Home Depot), which has already paid for itself many times over with various masonry-cutting projects. Ebay is a lifesaver, especially for cheapskates like us. And apparently, having a diamond blade lying around isn’t such a bad thing either.

3.) A piece of 3″ PVC pipe, being used as a handle extension for the angle grinder.

4.) A couple of pieces of lath, that once lived in the walls of our house, but which now are serving as a wedge to hold the PVC pipe onto the angle grinder. (The next stop for these pieces of wood will be a fiery demise in our wood stove.)

For the record, it was Olin’s idea to put the diamond blade on the angle grinder. This was a brilliant idea– however, since I come from the safety-nerd side of the family, I suggested that we might not want anyone to end up with the nickname of “Stumpy,” so I required the addition of the long PVC pipe handle so that nobody’s extremities had to come withing striking distance of a blade that cuts through concrete.

That’s Kim standing next to Olin. She’s playing the Vanna White role in this particular escapade, turning the device on & off by unplugging it from the extension cord. Here’s what this contraption can do for you:

He’s standing in the bottom of a hole and making a clean cut on the end of a clay sewer pipe, finally severing our little house from the nightmare of clogging & tree roots that must have driven the previous owners absolutely crazy. (So crazy that they lost their heads and forgot to mention it when we were buying the place.)

This is our frost-free yard hydrant before we buried its lower half. Ignore the fact that it looks very crooked in this photo. We fixed that. It may be hard to tell in this photo, but that hole is about 5 feet deep. It is hard to describe in words how nice it is to have a hose connection in the yard. When you’ve got a house that is basically a shell, and nothing works, the smallest things can make one very happy. Like running water.

Here is the new hydrant, with the the sewer line in the process of being bedded. The impetus for this whole project was that we needed to have an electrical line from the alley to the house– which happened to be the same path as the sewer line. We’re lucky for the overlap, because we would have been in DEEP trouble if we hadn’t replaced the sewer line. (as you can see in the latter part of this previous post.)

Here’s some other miscellaneous stuff in the little sideline trench. The lines with the black insulation around them are heat dump lines for a future hot tub (or other heat dump medium). We plan to have 8 solar hot water collectors on the roof, and in the summer, we’ll have to do something with all that excess heat, because it won’t be needed for space heating. Also in this trench: conduit for control work at the heat dump, and the electrical line, which is running through the old sewer line, and maybe a few extra conduits that Luke threw in there when I wasn’t looking. (Because you wouldn’t want to be stuck needing to run a wire somewhere and have NO conduit through which to run it. Heaven forbid we should fail to run an empty conduit to every conceivable point on the property. Somehow I feel that this penchant for running conduit is going to someday turn into an excuse to buy more electronic devices.)

The red tape says “caution buried electrical line” and is intended to float above the electric line, so that if anyone is every foolish enough to dig up this yard again, they’ll have fair warning before being shocked.

Luke drills a hole into the basement to welcome the new sewer line into our house. The new sewer entrance into the basement will work much better in terms of laying out all the various bits of plumbing. We used 4″ sewer pipe, instead of 3″ — because we aren’t very good at doing anything half-assed, and because we already had some of the 4″ sewer pipe in our stockpile of construction clutter. But we got a lot of flack for that from various visitors because 3″ is considered adequate.

Luke tries to get the concrete plug out of the drill bit, which was graciously lent to us by our friend Marcos.

Finishing the trenching project also involved removing yet more old foundations. We ripped up the remaining concrete, and loaded it up into a trailer and took it away to an earthmoving place that will grind it up into gravel. I have no idea whether the energy needed to grind the stuff up negates the recycling effort, but we were grateful that we didn’t just have to take it to the dump.

I can’t even tell you how excited we were to see this crap leaving our yard, after tripping over the piles of debris for months on end. “Ecstatic” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Good riddance to bad rubbish. This is the very last vestige of our nasty moldy plastic greenhouse– the lumpy foundations of which will never again populate our yard. The end result of all this dirt-moving and labor is this:

I know that this looks like the most boring picture in the world, but for us it is a beautiful sight to see a flat, relatively empty yard. We’re continuously marveling at how big our yard actually is because up until now, it has always been clogged with crap. When we bought the place, the yard was full of decrepit shed-like structures containing all manner of junk and decomposing plastic. Through the course of the project, these structures were replaced with piles of dirt and demolition debris. Eventually those piles were replaced with a 6′ deep trench running the length of the yard, and all the associated piles of dirt & rubble. Now FINALLY (just in time for snow) our yard is actually starting to feel empty. It makes us feel ready for winter, and for the frozen ground that will soon make digging impossible.

We also recently poured the second half of our concrete floor. As with second children, we didn’t take as many pictures during Round Two. And, as with baby pictures, I realize that it can get a little repetitive to everyone except the proud parents. But here you go (feel free to scroll quickly– I’ll never know the difference):

Everyone working to get the concrete laid down, and screeded.

Here’s a shot of the concrete conveyor delivering its goods through the front door.

Concrete tools. The floor turned out pretty well. We don’t know yet how we’re going to finish it, or if we’ll color it with an acid wash. Speedy aesthetic decisions aren’t exactly our forte.

We also got the last remnants of sheathing installed on the new kitchen (thanks to Jim), and we got plastic on the windows (also thanks to Jim and Ruth). This particular job helped make the kitchen much more tolerable now that it is getting cold. It also involved evicting a certain family of birds that believed our tall kitchen made a nice aviary. We’re glad to have the kitchen feel closed in. Next stop: real windows!

We bought a used stainless steel solar storage tank, and 7 hot water collectors. We weren’t really planning to buy this stuff right away, but the opportunity for this used equipment came along, so we bought it. (Something to fill up our now-empty yard until we have time to install them.) Getting this tank into our basement is guaranteed to be a difficult and annoying job.

Last but not least, Luke had a birthday. The unfortunate reality of our lives is that birthdays, when they fall on weekends, must be celebrated inside a cold, unfinished shell of a house, after a day of construction work. Here’s hoping that on Luke’s 33rd, we’ll be able to have a party inside a livable, warm house.

There you have it folks: the things we’ve managed to accomplish (with the help of friends & family) during the last couple of months while sick and depressed and still trying to keep our business projects from totally disintegrating. Sometimes it makes me overwhelmed just to think about it. But perhaps if we could get our mojo back, we could really start knocking down the projects!

P.S. I almost forgot to share this picture:

A visitor to our job site told us about a nearby quarry, where the foundation stones from our house probably originated. One Sunday afternoon when we were too discouraged to do another thing on the house, we took a drive to check it out. The spot is perhaps 10-15 miles away from the house in Monte Vista. By quarry standards, this is probably quite small, but still pretty impressive. Note the small trees in the bottom. It seems pretty likely that the stones that make up our “foundation” are from this quarry, though they were not very well dressed, so maybe they were the leftover rejects from the quarry. Seems to be a likely scenario for this house.

Happy Thanksgiving! May you be warm & well-fed in your homes with intact windows and insulation and other such luxuries. As for us, we’ll be visiting our siblings (who have all those luxuries), and our grandparents, who are in the process of moving into an assisted living-type home. We’re grateful that they’ve found a good place to live, even though the change has been painful, and it will be much harder for us to visit them since they’ll be on the other side of the country. “Home” is always a process.

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