A never-ending story

I really tried to wait to post about this project until it was a done deal. But it feels like it’s never going to be a done deal, soooooo….

It was with great anticipation in May when we spoke to our contractor (he of the Wall!) about extending the wall a bit and adding a small patio to really finish off our driveway area.

Originally, the area looked like this. Someone (maybe the owners before us) had put in a flagstone patio — it was OK, but not great (bad picture, sorry).

original patio

For most of the 4+ years we’ve lived here, the area has been an eyesore — a dumping ground for junk from whatever project we happened to be working on. Here, in the lower right corner, you can see it’s where we piled all the old tile from the kitchen floor when we remodeled the kitchen. (Actually the kitchen was probably done at this point…but the tile pile, that stayed for months and months.)


There was barely any time at all in the last 4 years that that spot, just under the breakfast room window and around the corner, wasn’t full of crap.


So, it was with much joy and celebration that I heard the contractor repeatedly say “no problem” when we explained how we wanted to extend the wall and add a (real) patio. Mike had even started it by temporarily laying in some block.

Mike's wall

That was in May.

It looked like this for the next 3 months.

In 13 hours it will be October. And it’s still not finished (although our daydreams of sipping margaritas on a warm summer evening at our new bistro table on our new patio certainly are — for this year anyway).

But it’s oh so close. So close I couldn’t wait anymore. Here’s how it looked over the months.









Those last few pictures of the patio pavers going in span 3 weeks alone (after waiting a month for the pavers to come in so they could start).

And we’re still not done — they still have to come back to add the sand between the pavers to lock them all together. They’ve had to do that for the last week.

You know, I’m used to things taking a long time when Mike and I are doing it ourselves. We have limited time, limited energy, and we don’t do this for a living, so things take a long time. I’m (sort of) resigned to that. It’s why we have a half-finished powder room waiting for us to start again once the weather turns too cold to continue working on our half-finished sunroom. It’s why we’re also simultaneously trying to rebuild our collapsed fire ring and replace the section of fence that runs along the side of the house near the new patio.

But when we’re paying a lot of money to “professionals,” I don’t expect to have to wait 4 months for a project that could be done in 2 weeks tops.

Obviously I need to adjust my expectations. (That happens a lot.)

But why dwell on it? There’s always next year for sipping margaritas on a warm summer evening at our new bistro table on our new patio. (Sing it with me: Next year, next year, I love ya, next year —  you’re always a year away….)

Patience: A minor form of despair disguised as a virtue.
~ Ambrose Bierce

Meanwhile, back in the driveway…

It was just a few months shy of two years ago that I posted about our great driveway-pier-garage-floor-and-doors extravaganza.

Now I get to add the next chapter.

We seem to have atoned for enough transgressions and collected enough good karma for “the guy” we’ve been chasing for just a few months shy of two years to come and apply the stucco coating on the pier to match the foundation on the rest of the house.

So, instead of looking at concrete block…


…we get to look at painted stucco. (Sorry, I neglected to get any in-progress photos — sometimes, I’m just too tired to care.)


I’m thrilled with the improvement. So much so, I had to get busy right away and paint the foundation on the house to match.


Well, almost. There weren’t enough hours in the day on Saturday (it took a surprisingly long time to paint over the heavy texture on the foundation — more like “pouncing” the paint as if stenciling than actually swiping the brush back and forth), and Sunday I was on duty at my mom’s…so, the foundation’s not quite finished yet. But it’s a big improvement, finally.

Here in fixer-upperhood, we revel in any victory, no matter how trivial.

Of course, it’s the next chapter (not the last chapter) in our great driveway-pier-garage-floor-and-doors extravaganza because one of the column bases we had specially built is already splitting and has to be replaced. Can’t wait to jack up that porte-cochère roof again and wrestle with the column so we can get the base out and replace it. Oh, and because the pier grew a few inches when it was rebuilt, the stone cap doesn’t fit anymore…someday we’ll get a new piece of stone cut to fill the gap.

And of course, we still have to paint the columns and bases, and the “ceiling” — that’ll be interesting, too. Maybe Mike’ll rig up one of these contraptions again to reach the top. (And notice the ugly concrete block pier — no more!)


But maybe that better wait until we’re sure he has health insurance again.

In the meantime, I’m celebrating stucco — the latest home improvement that makes pulling in the driveway a little more pleasant. (Now if we could just get rid of those dilapidated railing posts on the porch roof and fix the roof once and for all…)


Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.
~ John Archibald Wheeler

Summer Weekend Classes for DIYers

Class Schedule — May 30–31, 2009

Muscle-Building Basics — Rocks and Bricks

Feel the burn in your biceps! To prepare for a new patio, participants remove heavy pieces of cut stone from a stack, carry them approximately 50 steps uphill, then restack them. Next, students pull flagstone and rocks from stacks in their own yard and restack them (temporarily) in neighbor’s yard. Class finishes by moving 100 or so bricks from one stack to another, 20 feet away.

Trees and Fences for Couples

Couples practice teamwork and tact as they cut down and trim trees and shrubs in the abandoned yard next door. (Note: Class requires use of 7-ft pole pruner with chainsaw on the end.) Extra credit for cutting out and removing wire fencing installed by their home’s previous owner — now hopelessly entangled in thorny barberry — without killing themselves or their partners.

Appeasement 101 — Wood, Wood, and More Wood

One participant appeases the other by loading a giant pile of wood from a month’s-ago porch demo into old pickup truck, with no clear idea of where to get rid of it. Appeasee practices appropriate gratefulness and diplomacy (refraining from suggesting abandoning both pickup and wood at nearest junkyard).

Furniture Refurbishment — What Not to Do

Students learn humility by improperly priming a small outdoor table. “Time-saving” primer-paint combo doesn’t stick, and must be scraped/scoured off so table can be repainted using different primer. (Students earn bonus humility points by painting two coats before acknowledging it’s not working.)

Improvisational First Aid

Participants receive first aid kit of ibuprofen, eye drops, allergy pills, sewing needles, aloe gel, potato chips, crunch-n-munch, iced tea, wine, and beer, and must decide how to best treat various cuts, scrapes, splinters, bruises, allergies, muscle aches, and random pains.

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.
~ Mark Twain

« Older entries Newer entries »