Thursday, May 12, 2005

Almost Back to Normal ...

Yesterday, on the whiteboard in my office, I drew a big arch and colored the space inside of it black. I then wiped a little bit of the black away with my pinkie finger. That was the light at the end of the tunnel. I can finally see it.

My June issue of my regular magazine is out the door; the June issue of the francophone supplement is out the door (despite, and no kidding on this, the French-language coördinator for the supplement dying the weekend before production); and the post-show marketing piece phase of the contract publishing gig is in the production phase. It's only 16 pages, so I'm not too stressed, although I'm sure it will hit some snags along the way.

All in all, it looks like I can breathe for a moment, which is a good thing because just as work is getting less 過労死, I'm launching into something I don't know how we'll finish at home.

When we first looked at this house, I threw away any negotiating position we had by looking out the bedroom window and excitedly saying "Ooh, a pond!" Over the five years we've lived here, I've mucked out the pond, ignored the pond, tried to improve the pond, and now we're filling in the pond.

To be fair, it wasn't the best of water features for the yard. It was big and the edges looked really unfinished; plus, there was no filtration setup of any sort. Basically, it was a big stagnant pond that was home to 35+ goldfish, a bunch of water lilies, a dwarf lotus, and a few other plants. Last summer, I let things go a bit and bought three water hyacinths that basically choked out everything else in pond by autumn. Raccoons, cats, possums, or something got lots of the fish, and we had an ich outbreak over winter that killed off most of the rest. In the end we were down to one gold fish and a bunch of plants.

It's important to note that Evelin has never liked the pond, but with Celeste on the scene (and rapidly approaching mobility) she has upped the impetus to get rid of it.

Parallel to all of this is the patio — a raised structure with timbers for sides (five at the highest point), brick pavers for a top, and a lot of dirt beneath. The previous owners apparently every year pulled up the pavers and releveled the dirt below; we haven't done that, and the patio has become progressively less stable. Plus those timbers (despite being creosote-soaked) are rotting badly creating some danger points that were probably actionable.

The final part to this equation is that last Thursday, Celeste took a fantastic three-hour nap, which meant we didn't have time to make a cute card for Evelin for Mother's Day ... which meant that a promise to begin tearing apart the patio and filling in the pond became my and Celeste's Mother's Day gift to Evelin. Evelin was thrilled by this.

Saturday afternoon, I set up a hose to start siphoning water out of the pond to a point in the backyard that could absorb all the water. Despite a few clogs, it drained more quickly than I expected and by morning, we were looking at a smelly hole with just a bit of water left in the deep end. After getting the siphon going again, I started cutting the lining to pull it out in stages. The tricky bit was that I wanted to dump the muck/litter that was at the bottom of the pond back into the hole, both to add some organic matter to the soil and because it was wet, heavy, and gross and disposing of the liner is enough of a problem without having to worry about the muck, too.

In the meantime, my neighbor wandered into his driveway, giving me the chance to see if he would take in any of the plants. He said he was planning to work on his pond later in the week anyway, so he was game to see what he could use. (A bit later, as I was getting to the last bit of lining, I thought I'd found the last goldfish — we hadn't seen him in weeks and had assumed a cat or raccoon had eaten him — and through he was dead. Turned out he was alive, and we rushed him over to the neighbor's pond; hopefully, he'll continue to have a good life over there.)

After the pond was emptied, I started in on the bricks and timbers. The top course of timbers was mostly at or above the brick level, so that was easy to pry away. I then (and when Celeste went down for a nap, Evelin joined in) pulled up a little bit less than half of the bricks.

The most dangerous bit of the patio was the steps down from the back door. They were three courses of bricks and timbers, but the middle timber was 90% rotted away. So I focused on dismantling that first. There was more dirt under there than I'd imagined, but the pond still has a lot of space to fill. I also started digging out on the half where the pavers had been taken up.

In all, I think I put in about six or seven hours of work on the destruction project and it just looks like a mess. Evelin is happy, however, and the pond is getting filled in and the patio is going away. (Since then, I spent some time Monday night tamping down the dirt and today, during Celeste's nap, I put in about an hour of shoveling, which brought the dirt level down to where I could take out one more timber.) This is going to take all summer, and we don't really know what's going to replace it all — a deck, another patio, some bi-level deck-patio combination, a bigger pond (probably not) ...

The other thing that's in the process of going on is that Evelin and I are changing our telecom options. Tuesday, we had cable installed; today, I finally got the cable modem working and set up the wireless router; now we just have to sign up for VoIP and we can start dumping the old phone and Internet services in favor of something faster that will cost about $45 more per month than what we used to have but about $15 less than our other high-speed options. I'm a bit sad because I've been with out outgoing ISP for more about a decade, but I do have to admit the cable is a lot faster than dialup (and Evelin and I are both doing a fair amount of work (formally and informally) from home, so we need the high-speed connection ...)

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