Tuesday, May 29, 2007


This is a personal update post, for those of you who have followed the giant garage/shop building project from its inception last summer, through its many wandering offshoot projects and the woes of dealing with the Alliance (the City of Portland, Oregon), and its various codes and permit demands--moving on now to the remaining list of chores which have been filling our days, facilitated by the lovely spring weather that we have been enjoying for quite some time now. I thought perhaps some of you would be interested in where things stand. The rest of you can stop reading now; there won't be any cool science news or ranting about the state of politics, or anything of any actual import to the world at large. Heck, this update might not even be of interest to those who have read all the ongoing details of project-related trial and triumph that I have Meowed about over the last year. You have my complete understanding if the mere mention of our Power Tool Recreational Area makes your eyes glaze over, and I give you my full consent to bail on this post right now. Who, after all, besides Kedley and I, really cares about our long held dream of having a workshop in which we could play with our many beloved power tools? I have no illusions as I write this that it will be compelling reading for any of you, but I am self-indulgent enough to want to put it down anyway, as a continuation of the project "journal" which I have logged here in previous months. Blogging it has become part of the process for me, and at some point I will no doubt even post a set of "start-to-finish" photos to complete the log. That is, once we finally get it finished...

Anyway, the holiday weekend was the perfect blend of progress and rest. We started with a hike on Friday evening with a friend, which was a lovely boost before plunging in to the rabbit-trail project that was our Saturday focus. What we had to tackle Saturday morning was the direct descendant of one of the first "project children" the City required us to adopt and make our own. Back when we began the whole garage process, we discovered that our driveway had to be a foot wider for the city to allow us to build. This was a tight squeeze, and made it necessary for us to cut into a slope coming down from our neighbors' yard, build a retaining wall, and expand the driveway right up to the property line. Building the retaining wall was a huge project, which needed a series of sixty pound "Manor Stones," stacked five high, for a distance of about ninety feet. BIG JOB, which included digging out the hill, laying a gravel base, placing the stones just so, and then back-filling from the giant pile of dirt we collected in the process. After that, the actual driveway widening didn't seem like too bad a job.

Our driveway is made of concrete pavers, which we put in about ten years ago, so we knew how the whole thing was constructed, with compacted gravel, sand and pavers, in that order. (It's actually one of the reasons we chose this kind of driveway when the old one needed to come out. We can take the pavers up and put them down at will. It's not easy, but it's simple.) That part of the project went smoothly, but there was a bit of an issue that developed from the retaining wall. It became a matter of some exactness to open the door and get out of the car on the wall side of the driveway. Those Manor Stones are not particularly forgiving, and, if we wanted to spare ourselves a record of errors kept in the car door panels, it became clear we would have to repeat the widening on the lawn side. We simply needed more room to get out of the car, without being forced to step out into wet grass, by the necessity of retaining wall avoidance.

We knew what we were going to start on Saturday had to be finished on Saturday, and that if we didn't get it done, it was going to cause some problems for us. The pavers are held in place by a set of plastic braces pounded into the ground with spikes along the length of the edge. In order to add a row of pavers, we had to dig a trench the width of the expansion, fill it with compacted gravel, remove the edge pieces, level the base, smooth with sand, place the stones, and finally, replace the edge. The replacing-the-edge part is very important. Without it, the driveway would be off limits, as driving on it could cause the whole shebang to shift. This would be bad. Not being able to drive on the driveway, besides just being a general annoyance, would also severely hinder forward momentum in finishing other long-neglected garage-related tasks. Since the next two weekends are booked with peoplish things like weddings, it was the holiday weekend or bust, as far as getting the driveway finished was concerned. Long story longer: We got it done!! We feel most triumphant. We then got to top the day off with dinner with some dear friends of long standing (doesn't that sound better than dear old friends?), which was a great way to end a day of hard work, especially since one of these friends is an absolutely splendid cook. A day of progress. followed by a fab meal that I didn't have to prepare--what could be better?

Not only did we get the driveway completed, but we even found time to move on to other things. Even better, we gave ourselves Sunday off, to recharge our very depleted batteries, have a wonderful time of worship, watch some videos, go for a lovely walk around the golf course near our house, and eat some splendid Indian food. Good day. Then Monday we jumped back into the work with renewed vigor (after a healthy dose of caffeine--I try to avoid the stuff in general, but lately there are some days when it simply proves too useful to abstain.) Monday was another feel-good day, where we actually saw a project heading toward completion, rather than just starting out. If you remember our forty foot, by ten foot, by five foot high mountain range of dirt from the garage excavation (and I'm assuming you do--I doubt anyone who hasn't seen this garage thing through from the beginning is still hanging in there with reading this post), then you know that we created all sorts of raised beds and niches to tuck the mountain away bit by bit, and eliminate our own private "dirt dune."

The biggest of these is a twenty-two by eleven raised patio behind the new garage, where most of the soil found its home. Yesterday, we finally got the dirt levelled, the plant beds established with a plastic edging, and about three inches of gravel in place as the foundation for the flagstones that will be the patio surface. We were so excited to get this far. We had friends we haven't seen for years stop by unexpectedly, and we all sat out on the nice, shady, if slightly unfinished patio, and got to taste the first fruits of all that work. It was perfect--just what we hoped for. Bamboo and lilac shielded us from the glare of the sun, and we looked out over the first blades of grass popping up in the freshly-planted lawn below us. It was cool and comfortable, and wonderfully social, which is half the point of putting the thing in (the other half being the removal of the aforementioned mountain range.) Another big plus: since we were outside, I could sit there being happily hospitable, while NOT having a massive allergic reaction to the cloud of perfume that these particular (and very beloved friends) inevitably exude. I was a happy Kat.

So there it is. All in all, it was everything we could ask of a long weekend. Work, worship, play, and three whole days together. Kedley and I were, of course, sorry to see it end, but still satisfied. I took time in the midst of all of this to remember that it was Memorial Day, and think about the soldiers who have given their lives to make our home as we know it possible. We did not go, as a Boy Scout from church did this weekend, to put flags on the graves of fallen soldiers, nor did we take flowers to the sites where the earthly remains of loved ones who have gone before us have been laid to rest, but we do remember, and are grateful that what they have built endures. We pray to God that we who remain can build well on their foundation.

On that note, I'll be done with the Meow Personal Progress Journals, and head out into the cyber world to see what else the weekend hath wrought. I hope I find that others have made progress of various kinds over the past few days. I love progress.