Thursday, August 20, 2009

Not quite archaeologists.

It's surprising what pops up when you leave your backyard unattended for months.

I was lucky enough to snap a few pictures of this wildlife before our own native wildlife lunged out of the underbrush to swat at my dangling camera strap. After showing that strap who's queen of this jungle Zoe-Cat turned and took care of the invading fungi with a few bats of her paw. Trampled a pretty little fairy ring too.

Oh well, time was running out for them anyway, being right in the middle of our future patio.

We decided that since we had to remove 6" of soil from the perimeter of the house we may as well take it a little farther and prep the ground for forming a concrete patio.
Sure will be an improvement over our existing plywood "patio". This was taken after the big clean-up or, to be exact, re-location of the mess to the other side of the yard.
After a fair bit of consultation we decided on a curved patio, mimicking the curve of the eyebrow window above. Wouldn't do to take the easy way & make it square, would it? You can see the stakes showing where it'll go in the photo above. It'll be pretty big. Click on the pic to see just how excited our teenage helper was to be spending part of his weekend doing heavy-duty yardwork.

Then there was digging....

and more digging.

And this was not the easy sand that was removed from the side yards. This was the lovely soil we have for gardening - hard-packed clay. Good riddance.

Among the less interesting finds unearthed like pink bricks from the former house, large chunks of concrete and various construction debris was also a pink road cone and this guy:

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Have I mentioned that we (still) haven't passed the final building inspection?
That means that technically we're homeless.
Homeless people squatting illegally in a building with no occupancy permit.

It's not as bad as it sounds. We've passed all the other inspections: final site; final plumbing. We've passed gas (oops, excuuuuse me) and final electrical, just not the final FINAL.
At our first final final inspection (that makes a lot of sense doesn't it?) the first thing the inspector said when I answered the door was "You do know you're not supposed to be living in a house without an occupancy permit don't you?". When I finished blabbering about how we had to move all our stuff here, had no other place to store it, and were here all the time working on the house, (never admitting that we were sleeping there) he cheerfully said "OK, as long as you know". Kind of hard to keep up the charade when he couldn't inspect the boys' bathroom because Shea was in the shower.

Before the inspector showed up Kim had called me, joking about some ways I could make the inspection go a little smoother: have some cold beer waiting... wear something low-cut....
But hey, I didn't have to resort any of those, we had secret weapon "Z"....
Luckily our inspector is a cat-lover and when our sweet little Zoe waltzed up to greet him at the door he was smitten. I can't say she convinced him to shorten our to-do list at all but those big gold eyes sure helped break the ice and make the whole ordeal a lot less officious than it would have been. I mean, how stern can you be about a missing vent cover when you're cuddling and cooing at a kitten on your clipboard?

We didn't really expect to pass the first time. We know this was just round one, but we didn't know how long and expensive our deficiency list was going to be.
It's pretty long but, at first look anyway, not too daunting: nothing we couldn't do ourselves and nothing very expensive. Oh, except for the permanent address. "You mean the spray-painted plywood propped up against a tree doesn't count? Even if we stamp down the grass & weeds in front so you can see it?" I knew I should have called Cantu (ridiculously expensive home fixtures) and told them to ban Kim from entering their store.
We thought we'd be calling the inspector back in a week, maybe two at the most. Ha, mildly delusional, both of us. Here's a small sample from 'The List':

1. Caulk exterior trim around all windows.
Just like that.
Took two weekends. Lovely job to be doing in the hot sun.
Awful, sticky, gooey black goop. Took four days to clean it all off because there's only enough shower time to scrub one limb raw each morning.
That'll teach me not do such a good job my first try and impress Kim so much I get saddled with the entire job. Until it came to the windows requiring tall, shaky ladders. Kim didn't want me up there and I didn't bother reminding him that "that display job I had at Eaton's? Spent most of each day easily going up & down taller, shakier ladders than these". Nope, by then I was quite happy to pass the caulking gun to him. Yes, dear, you better do the scary ladder parts.

Now that "Caulk window trim" is checked off, we're on to

2. Lower level of ground by 6 inches (oh is that all?)
in both sideyards and a strip along the back of the house and where we want the patio to go.
Just what you want to be doing in hottest, longest heatwave we've had in memory. Shovel sand into wheelbarrow; screen out rubble, rocks & garbage from tradesmen's lunches; dump in front yard; rake level. I don't know what I'm doing wrong, with all the hard work & sweating I've done I should be fitting into those clothes in the 'too small for now box' by now.
From this....
to this...
in one long, hot weekend. What do you mean you can't tell the difference? There was a lot of sand carted out of there. Can't you see the big 6-inch drop?

Because that was just one sideyard. Now where are we going to put all the rubble from this side?
More sun in the forecast? Oh well, it'll be just like being at the beach: lots of sand... and sand... and more sand... OK, maybe not so much like the beach.
Good thing we have a helper who loves to dig in the sand.

3. Install gutter downpipes.
Oh, you mean the ones that the stucco guys ripped off when they did the final stucco coat and left all over the roof, on the deck, in the garage under a pile of junk, and the rest in a heap in the backyard that is now overgrown with morning glory?
The ones that we have to paint now because we changed our mind about the colour of the house since they were first ordered, months ago because the stucco guys stopped work & wouldn't continue until the gutters were installed because they didn't want rain dripping on them when they were doing the scratch coat?
You mean that big brain-teaser of a puzzle that we (meaning Kim) have to solve to figure out just where the heck each piece fits?

Yes THOSE downpipes.

No problem. Done.
(says she who had nothing to with the salvaging, re-painting and reassembling of downpipes)

And the most onerous task on the list:
4. Sweet-talk obnoxious-plumber-who-we-fired-with-good-cause and talk him into filling out that important form that he should have already anyway but didn't because someone (understandably) yelled at him on his voicemail when his crew didn't show up for the third time.
Wish me luck on that one. I'll need it.