Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cement, Bricks, and Manhole Covers

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

It is 6:30 a.m. as I type this out. The mornings truly are the favourite time of the day for me. The watering has been done. I know I sound like a broken record on the drought here. Today I hooked up the soaker hose the front holly hedge. I’ve lost one mature plant. It had been sickly for awhile so I’m not sure I can blame it on the drought or not. I will not attempt to plant a replacement till the fall. The annuals seem to be holding their own. The two rubber plants on the front porch are flourishing. They must be a real masochist type of plant. The abuse they have received over the years, they have no reason to be here now! They are in cement planters that drain onto the concrete porch. The water that drains out is Daggy’s favourite drinking water. It drives me crazy! I give those cats fresh water every day! I guess the “dirt filtered” water has a better taste to her!

I am worn out. I had forgotten what a pain in the butt is to mix up concrete. Yesterday afternoon I made a trip to the brickyard to get 50 bricks to line this new patio addition. On the way there I stopped at the wastewater plant. It was recommended I check here for a manhole cover. I heard voices as I entered the building. Three guys were in a “break room” kind of place. I asked them who I should talk to see about getting a cover. They directed me to the head guy upstairs. I’m not sure if it is professional courtesy or not I was not treated as if I were totally mad in requesting this. The city can’t sell me a cover. He referred me to the supplier they use. This supplier is just around the corner. As I was leaving one of the guys was laughing, “You gonna get one?” he asked. “Things are looking good!” I answered. He gave me the high sign as I left!

In the street in front of my house:

First I have to get my bricks. It kills me to actually buy NEW bricks! But this has to be so the top edge of the patio addition is uniform. I found a great old looking style brick with “Old Virginia” stamped into the face.

On the way home is when I check supplier for the manhole cover. Once again the people I talk to don’t think I’m crazy at all! I’m taken into the “yard” after donning a safety vest and hard hat to see the covers. Yup, there is the familiar cast iron cover with “City of Tuscaloosa” all embossed with a great art deco cityscape. The cover with the ring is only $199.00 plus tax. This guy I’m dealing with is laughing as I tell him my patio plans. He has really made my day. I’m sure he told his family about the guy who was in his office to buy a manhole cover that evening at dinner!

I finished up the afternoon mixing the five bags of cement left over from last years projects. There was nearly enough to fill the forms. The bricks are soaked in water and then placed on top and leveled. They get soaked first so they don’t soak the moisture prematurely from the cement. This slow cure makes for a much stronger bond.

Today I’ll dig the other half of the trench. The cement will be set up enough to where I can remove the forms and reuse them on the other half.

I also need to ship stuff off to Louis via Fed Ex. The terminal is right in the area where the manhole supplier is; I might just pick the thing up today.

It is a muggy morning as I type this out. What does a “Damn Yankee” do in this type of weather? For this boy, the answer is: “Work with bricks!”

Originally I had hoped to fill a small grassy area using my rocks gathered from the shores of Lake Ontario. As fate would have it, I’m just a few rocks shy of a full load of being able to complete this. I had planned on getting more rocks my last trip home but the weather and Joe being sick changed those plans.

Instead I decided to extend the patio I built last summer.

Saturday was the start of laying out the new addition of the patio. My first plans were of a small addition using the cobblestones brought back from Pennsylvania last spring. Not now. This patio will be almost doubled in size when the addition is completed.

The center point is found on the patio side. A pipe is driven into place. A string is measured to the side of the patio. This will measure out the outside perimeter of the addition. My shovel is tied off on this and the first cut is made.

The pick axe is used to dig the trench where the cement foundation will be poured. Daggy was helping me at this point. She started out in the cool shade of the ivy and wisteria. Once she saw all that dirt piling up she had to roll around in the dry soil.

Stumpy chose the more sensible route and camped out on the cool stone bench. I did not want to leave the house, but I had to make a quick trip to Lowe’s to get some treated 1x4x12’s. These I’ll use to make the cement forms. I really need to do a shopping trip. There is very little in the house for food. More important; I need another “cardboard Kegger”. I learned that is the current college term for box wine! There is a nasty place not far from me that sells beer and wine near the University I stop at on the way home.

While all this is going on, I’m thinking on how to make this patio project unique. Sure I’m using all this reclaimed brick, but I need something to really make the finished product stand out. Then the light bulb goes off in my twisted little mind. If I can install a manhole cover in the middle of all this I can rant on how the city is so messed up they had to put a sewer access in my back yard! That is to be the mission for this week, see if I can wrangle a manhole cover somewhere!

Sunday I start work on the forms. These need to be notched so they can be formed into a curve. Wooden stakes are made to secure the forms into the trench. This is the real pain in the neck part of the job. I went through most of the lumber at Lowe’s to get the straightest stuff I could. This is pretty cheap wood so there are tons of knots, which do not bend and flex well.

The forms have to be installed so there will be a slight dip. This facilitates the run off of water when it rains. (That is a funny one! Rain!!!)The outside form is the first to be installed. This is leveled off using a section of pipe. The string is brought out again and measured against the inside edge of the form. Once everything is as it should be, the inside board is installed. Scrap bricks are used as spacers between the two boards. The inside board is leveled and staked in. This is fussy work taking up most of the afternoon. I’m just about finished when it actually rains a bit!

There is not much I can do till I get new bricks. I detest buying new bricks for this project. But, I need bricks with a constant thickness for this part of the patio. I don’t have anything in any quantity in my horde for this part of the job.

I call it a day when the rain arrives. I wish it were a steady hard rain, but it turns out to be just a sprinkling for about half an hour or so. It was just enough to dampen everything; not much more.

I’m sweaty, hot and dirty. A wonderful prolonged hot shower has me feeling like a million bucks. After enjoying the last of my steak I take a break walking around in my back yard. I study the ancient power pole my phone and electric lines run off. It is so archaic I think it could be considered for landmark status. Something is not right….the power lines to my house are draped over my security light. The supporting “guy wire” is loose from the pole. My God that is all I need is to have those lines short out!

Going again through “voice mail hell” only this time with the power company, I’m able to talk to a real person. I try to explain the situation with the incoming power lines. This is not a dire emergency yet, but it needs to be taken care of soon. Hopefully this was fixed up on the work order to make sense to the lineman when they come out….

If those lines shorted out on that light standard it would fry my house wiring for sure. It is always something here…….