Monday, September 27, 2010

My Bucket List

We have a little joke on the site.

Back when we were trying to find a home for the dirt, I had the bright idea to put an ad on Craigslist. 

"Free Fill Dirt -- we load you haul"

Of course, I put Gary's phone number on the ad

He had lots of people call who wanted a pick up truck full of dirt, but one woman said she wanted the dirt but could we supply a container.

"A container?" asked Gary

Something like a 5 gallon bucket was the reply.

Gary said that if times weren't so tough and profit margins so slim, he would have sent Jason down to crank up the trac hoe and load that woman's 5 gallon bucket.  They are always teasing each other -- and me --  saying we didn't pass an inspection or somebody stole the bobcat,  just trying to get a rise out of each other.

In fact, after I tested the new driveway Thursday evening, Jason blithely announced on Friday that somebody had driven up the driveway and broken one of the newly laid sewer pipes.  Of course, I confessed and protested that I was *so* careful, that I knew I didn't drive into the outline of the house.  Then I remembered that the pipes had been filled with water for the inspection and asked if there was any water leaking out.  Well, said he, the dirt was a different color right there.

Mild panic began.

I started looking for a shovel to dig up the pipe and see if it was cracked.

Then they told me.

Just kidding.

So, Jason had this one coming.

Jason came down on Saturday to move the mulch pile.  I sent out an email to all my gardening buddies telling them that we could fix them up with  truck load of mulch, but if they didn't need it would they please stop by with a 5 gallon bucket and ask Jason for some mulch?

I just happened to arrive as one of my good friends and neighbors approached with her bucket.

I hid in the bushes and snapped pictures while I laughed uncontrollably.

Jason graciously filled the bucket.

She played the part beautifully, standing back and giving him a thumbs up before she carried it back to her car.

All day long, as I loaded my wheelbarrow and mulched around the quince bushes, friends came with buckets, recycling bins, boxes, and paper bags.  The mulch is so good that some people came back twice!

I think I'm on Jason's list now.

But not his bucket list -- the other one.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Filling Station

What a wonderful surprise! We were able to begin backfilling the walls a little earlier than expected.  They were going at it hammer and tongs (or trac hoe and bobcat), moving that dirt all around!

While his helper started filling in the big retaining wall for the parking area, Jason filled in the stair step part of the wall where it will slope down into the lower back yard.

I missed all the action with the "whacker packer."  I couldn't believe a tool really had that name.  I really wanted to see it in action, but by the time I got back from lunch, they were putting it away.

As the day wore on they filled the wall with more and more dirt.

Soon you could start to see where the flat spots were going to be.  This will be the grassy strip between the carport and the retaining wall that will lead to the back yard.

Some of the packing was done by "walking it in" with the bobcat and with the trac hoe.  Here the bucket is raised high in the air to increase the pressure exerted by the tractor treads.

By the end of the first day, the lower driveway was cut in and the parking area and carport were pretty much flattened out.

Early the next morning, Jason continued to shape up the driveway and the parking areas.

Meanwhile his helper made himself a dirt ramp and began to fill in behind the curved retaining wall.

Things were really starting to take shape by midday.

And the curved wall was almost full of dirt.

The end of the day was spent spreading mulch and making sure that none of the newly moved dirt would wash away in the rains we are now having.  All this rain should be great for packing down the back filled dirt and showing us any places that need to be touched up.

Next up:  the foundation walls!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fall Fashion Preview

Labor Day is past and these walls are trying out their new look.

Black is this season's color of choice.

The smart looking walls pair this basic black with a low slung drain belt with shiny foil accents.

The drain belt is an accessory that works just as well on the neutral walls.

Walls on the edge are going for this jaunty look.

And the best part of this great looking asphalt wall covering?

It's waterproof -- perfect for the Fall rains.

Putting the Plumb in Plumber

The guys who came out on Saturday to put the drain pipes in the ground were really level headed.  Or maybe they were just level heads.  At any rate, they really put the plumb in plumbing.

These guys are brothers and they really had good teamwork.

Every section of pipe got two levels on it.  It didn't seem like it would be that hard to make sure the drains ran downhill, so I asked them about it.

And I learned something new.

Drain pipes, especially sewer drain pipes, must drop between 1/8 and 1/4 inch for every foot they go horizontally.  Any more slope than that, and the fluids rush on down leaving the solids behind.  The solids sit there stranded and sort of dry out.  Then the next sewage voyage does the same thing, only now you have a solid mass that attracts more solids.  The cumulative effect is like a beaver dam, only a lot grosser.  Eventually the pipe gets completely blocked.  And that's when it really hits the fan -- or the floor or wherever it can go, because the pipe is blocked.

It can choose any one of these vertical pipes for its escape.

I know.  TMI. 

 Look even the plumber is embarrassed.

But if I don't tell you these things, who will?

At any rate, I'm very grateful to these guys to keeping us on the straight and not-quite-level-but-ever-so-gently-sloping-downhill.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Great Wall of Atlanta

What an exciting week!
On Monday they stripped the curved retaining wall. 

I had a neighbor ask me if it was going to have a bay window on top of it.  That would be really cool, but it's just a garden wall -- not part of the house at all.  It's the uphill side of the flat spot where our virtual pool will be.  Until the pool becomes a reality, we will have a wonderful flat grassy spot.

The curve came out really well.  Apparently it's easy for curved walls to "blow out" with the weight of the concrete.  The crew was very pleased.

I think the back of the wall looks really neat.  Too bad it will be buried in the dirt.

There was no time to admire their work, though.  The inspector was already lined up for the next day, so they got right to work with the foundation walls for the house. Gary the Builder supervised from on high.

Some of the rebar configurations were so complicated, they almost looked like sculpture.
This bit here will add a little extra support for a slab.

When the pumper truck got there, these fellows were finishing up the forms for that complicated bit.  It was a real scramble.  I wanted to yell, "All hands on deck!" but they were already looking at me funny, so I kept it to myself.

They went ahead and started pumping concrete on the opposite side while those last forms were being put in place.

Nothing like a deadline coming your way spewing concrete from its maw to get you motivated to finish the job.

Closer and closer came the concrete belching beast...

Meanwhile, check out who had the remote control.  I'm probably hopelessly out of step with fashion, but the white sunglasses, huge earrings and backward baseball cap didn't seem to go together.  Am I just out of step?

And speaking of missteps...

Back when they were working on the curved retaining wall, I thought I had figured out why it was taking so long,

but when I saw them dismantling and cleaning up the final walls, I realized that carrying all that equipment down into the hole and back up again was really the reason it took so long.

By the end of the week, the lot was all cleaned up and our beautiful concrete walls seemed to stretch out forever.

Eat your heart out, China!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Foundations: 3rd floor

Monday they stripped the retaining wall.  I thought it would be dramatic and exciting, but it was mostly noisy.  It is alot harder to get those bolts out when they have a thin coating of concrete on them, and they forgot to spray the forms with "Pam," so the forms didn't want to let go of the concrete.

When they got this section stripped, I couldn't decide whether it was cool, because it looked like the wall of a ruin or problematic, because the concrete didn't look very uniform here.
Before I could decide, along came a fellow with a bucket of concrete to patch things up.  I thought his job of rubbing more concrete into it made an excremental difference, but no matter.  It will all be buried under several feet of fill dirt, anyway.
Soon they had it stripped.  The wall still bears the marks of the forms and looks a little raw, but it is a good start.
The workers got right back to work adding rebar and setting up forms to make the uphill retaining wall.
I love the way the curve makes this shot look like it was taken with a "fish eye" lens.  It wasn't.  That's just the shape of the curve.
I went home for lunch and then on my way to the hardware store, I saw this beautiful sight.  I guessed correctly that the inspector had come, he had seen and he had approved.
They were getting close but hadn't quite finished when I left.

The pumper truck got into position, and they began.

They started with the sub wall for the carport.
It was a bit of a wild ride, because the pump truck owner was letting his adult son operate the remote control.  This fellow holding the hose is a  former coal miner and he had some choice words a time or two. Luckily his accent is so thick that nobody could understand him.
Before long they had a line dance going with the tube guy in front followed by the guy with the vibrator, "Killick" who was holding the cord for the vibrator, the guy who likes to poke things with a stick, and the smooth operator. 
It was a disco inferno.
I think I said something to offend "Killick."  Maybe it was the disco comment.
At any rate, they finished the sub wall and moved to the curve in the uphill retaining wall.

Tomorrow they'll strip this wall and start the walls of the basement.

I'm starting to feel like we've spent more time and money on foundations than Mae West and Dolly Parton combined.

Just sayin...