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Archive for October, 2008

Dateline: France

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Not much going on here, but Kari persuaded me to post some photos of our recent exploits. By way of explanation I should note some recent events. Our friends Fabien and Marie, recently engaged, dropped by for a visit. We went to Flavigny for lunch at a cool little restaurant run by local farmers’ wives. They make traditional dishes and serve it cafeteria style to tourists and locals alike who queue up out the door. Inna’s husband Thierry was kind enough to teach Laurens and me the rudiments of stonecutting. After seeing his website, I told him that I was curious about the process of stonecutting and that my dream was to be able to some day make a stone sink. Let’s just say that stonecutting is HARD and one day does not a master make. Other than those two things, life has been pastoral, slightly lethargic and ultimately regenerative. 


Monday, October 13, 2008

Talking about france is all well and good, but don’t you want to see good old tee-vee? Here’s a couple of videos from around the farm house. I have to warn you that it is 4pm and being seriously jetlagged we just woke up. 

Part 1:

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Part 2:

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Bienvenue a France

Monday, October 13, 2008

We made it! Kari made a delicious lasagna last night (after a harried trip to the supermarket where we were unable to find ricotta or mozarella) and we are beginning immediately to slip into our bad habits of staying up late and sleeping till 2pm. 

Pour, Baby, Pour

Monday, October 13, 2008

Our last couple of days in the states were a whirlwind. There were several things that needed to happen before we boarded the plane. I beg your patience while I backtrack a couple weeks…

The plan all along was to have the foundation poured before we left for France. I think we even planned to be further along initially, but those were just silly high hopes. The roof of the office was nearly complete and the old foundation had been cut and hauled off to the landfill. All that was left was to dig the trenches for the foundation, build the forms and pour the concrete. The labor wasn’t going to be a problem, but we had a couple of technical hurdles that needed to be overcome. Firstly, we had not yet submitted our house plans to the building department. Well, actually, we did manage to do that, but they came back needing revisions. A lot of revisions. The plans were sound, but they needed a bunch of boilerplate stuff that architects usually stamp on without thinking – stuff like “I promise that this will all conform to all the codes it is supposed to conform to”. It’s like a big wink that architects and building departments do to each other as part of the process. The architects can’t possibly specify every little detail that the code requires and if they did the building department would be swollen with plan checkers making sure all those details were there. So they use a shorthand method that manifests in the form of a note. The note declares something like, “you know and I know that this is supposed to meet the codes, and it’s a bother to write everything down, so let’s just promise that this will meet the codes and agree to let the contractor handle the details.” Except the note is 200 lines long and written in blueprint shorthand like: “Smoke detectors installed per CBC Section 907.”

Alas, there was no way I was going to finish the ditches, build the forms AND update the plans before leaving. The forms needed to be inspected before pouring as well. Add this to the fact that we discovered an abandoned septic tank underneath the old foundation and you can imagine how cloudy our outlook was becoming. 

Yes, the abandoned septic tank was a surprise. I found it while digging the trench for the footing. A solid BONK against the shovel about a foot down. It ran about ten feet along the footing. The tank itself was made from concrete walls and measured five by nine by six feet. Whomever abandoned it was supposed to fill it up back when the public sewer line was run down the street. They wisely deferred that task to me. The city told me to talk to the county. The county asked me what the city wanted me to do. The Santa Cruz County Sanitation Department inspector is a dude named Calvin. He is a cool cat. He’s one of those guys who is nice because he knows that if he needs to beat up everyone in the room he could. He’s been doing his job for a long time and the stuff he cares least about in this world are the minutiae involved with my project. “Fill it with slurry. I’ll check it out later.” Thing is, that he needed to give me a permit saying it was filled before we could pour the foundation. But having the concrete truck come out twice (once to fill the septic tank and once to pour the foundation) would be expensive. “Um, I was hoping I could just pour it the same day that we poured the foundation and you would just sign off on my permit if I promised to do it.” He’s got his old school raybans on. “Yeah, whatever…. As long as it’s cool with the city.” Oy vey, another trip to Capitola city hall. Don’t get me wrong. All this back and forth driving is totally worth it to make this all happen smoothly. 

Another shout out to the Capitola building department. These guys have been so helpful and so understanding about the project that we’ve actually spent some time trying to figure out how to do something nice for them without making it look like a bribe. I can’t publicly tell you what they did, but it can be aptly described as: enabling. 

We now had our ducks lined up. They were haggard ducks, they were a bit wobbly and a some even tardy, but they were there. Our plane was leaving Thursday at noon. The pour was to happen on Wednesday. The forms were finished and inspected on Tuesday. Bert again came to the rescue and helped me finish the forms over the weekend while Reggie took his family to Disneyland. 

On the day of the pour we had a guy named Stewart from Santa Cruz Concrete Pumping who manned the concrete pump. This is basically a huge diesel engine that manages to push concrete through a long tube to wherever you need it to go. I’ve seen it in action but I still don’t believe it works. A fifty foot, four inch tube of concrete is very, very heavy. This machine manages to push it out in a steady glug, glug, glug that boggles the thoughtful mind. Stewart is one of those people who loves his job and is thus very good at doing it. He ran around, jumping over the forms, giving us tips on how to make sure the concrete filled the forms evenly and keeping the consistency of the concrete (which he called “L.A. butter”) steady. If you are ever in need of a concrete pump and you are in the Santa Cruz area, you should definitely call Stewart.

During the pour Kari and Reggie and I smoothed the top of the concrete, making a nice even surface for the top of our foundation. By the end of the day we were pulling stakes and cleaning up the site a bit. Bert offered to pull the forms off the next day, so I went home and packed. We slept, woke up early and drove to SF to catch our flight. One more day of impedance and we wouldn’t have a foundation, just a big moat waiting to be filled by rainwater.

Hasta la Vista Baby!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Oh buddies! In a mad rush we poured the foundation for the new house today. Soooooooo stoked. It’s a long story, but we’re leaving for France first thing tomorrow morning so I’m going to bed. Just wanted the millions of readers of this blog to know that we managed to pour before we left. There is comfort in knowing that we didn’t walk away from two hundred feet of rebar filled trenches that would have undoubtedly have been filled with rainwater by the time of our return. 

Life’s a Ditch

Thursday, October 2, 2008

During my last quiet phase I was enduring a ditch digging marathon. Roughly four days of ditch digging is something I hope I will not have to perform again soon. There is something oddly satisfying about digging however. It must be some primal instinct that we carry on genetically from our evolutionary cousin the cro-gopher. The deeper I dug, the happier I became. In fact it was a bit of a problem in that I was constantly digging my ditches deeper than the prescribed fifteen inches. I’d find myself at a blissful two feet, my mind perversely sated, before jolting back to consciousness slightly annoyed at myself while at the same time weirdly proud. We have plans to install a rain catchment system which will require the interring of an 800 gallon plastic tank. And I look forward to clawing the giant hole required by such a vessel. 

After doing the ditch, we began building the forms for the foundation. This involves: String, wooden stakes, steel rebar, many board-feet of 2×8 lumber, and duplex nails. Everything must end up very straight. This usually means jumping through hoops trying to compensate for how crooked the lumber is. It’s like putting braces on a 40 year-old British citizen. You can tweak and cajole those planks, but it’s never gonna be Tom Cruise’s mouth. Um. That metaphor was whack, sorry. 

During slow times we roofed. After visiting ABC Roofing Supply, Kari and I drove around town looking at roofs. We were soon able to identify most recent roofing jobs by brand, product line and colorway. Naturally we decided on GAF-ELK Timberline Lifetime in “charcoal”. It was a close call over “weathered wood”. The whole roofing industry seems to be centered on making a roof look like something it very clearly is not. We often overheard the phrase “and from far away it actually looks just like antique italian slate!” Which is a complete lie. It looks like three tab asphalt shingles and that’s it. For the shed we picked a slightly less fancy version of the same color since nobody, from any angle, will ever see that roof. The roof on the main house will use a thicker shingle, which will make it look exactly like we roofed our house with Teddy Roosevelt’s eyelids from Mount Rushmore.

We’re leaving for France next Thursday (one week! yikes!) so we’ve been jamming to try to get the foundation poured before then. Rain is predicted for tomorrow, so hopefully we can finish the forms before the lot turns into a mud wrestling arena. All sorts of finagling has been going on to try to line up the city, the county, the lumber, the concrete, etc.

Oh! We found an old abandoned septic tank underneath the old slab. That was a surprise. It has a very tomb-like feel and upon opening the hatch I was sure that we’d see a human skeleton inside. Luckily it was devoid of bodies (and poo) but unluckily we now have to fill it with concrete to eliminate it as a structural nuisance. The city and county have been VERY cool about signing off on it before I do the pour.

If everything works out I’ll have photos of the new foundation before we leave for France. Wish us luck!