Thursday, October 22

In order to create…

sometimes you must destroy. In the case of our front entry step, the contractor made a slight mistake by making the front edge slope upward slightly. I noticed this when I washed the entry off with a hose and the water, instead of running off completely, puddled by the front edge. I was not going to lay tile on this kind of surface, so I am using a hammer and chisel to correct the situation. 

The correction also involved removing the metal edge on the front. I did that easily with a grinder, peeling the metal off easily. But now the remaining metal doesn’t have the bend to give it strength, so I have to use a bunch of flat-headed screws to hold it down.

I will be screwing on a fascia board, and topping the board with a rubber stair-edge protector. This is one of those projects that starts out with a simple premise: Let’s put tile on the entry. Yeah, right.

Monday, October 12

Slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y, s...l.....o......

This job is the slowest-moving tile work I’ve ever done. I am not using the standard thin-set mortar to stick the tiles down, but rather a slow-setting mastic. It can take a day and a half for this stuff to finally get hard enough that you can walk normally on the tiles without shifting them. So, the project started with the large tiles, then the tiny border tiles, then the inner green glass tiles, then the outer ring of glass tiles. Finally, this morning’s contribution was the outermost rectangular tiles.

Why did I put the very small tiles down before the inner ring of green glass tiles? Well, in order to make things come out square and lined up correctly, I just had to do it that way. It took LOTS of measuring and cross-checking to get them placed accurately. Especially since the innermost tiles, the big ones, weren’t laid exactly square! Dang! It’s been awhile since I laid tile and I was rusty already. Oh well, it’s going to look just fine (and anyone coming up the walkway with a framing square hidden behind their back will be sent away without supper).

Tomorrow we will go back to Creative Tile in Fresno (the best tile store on this little planet!) and get tiles to surround this central pattern. We haven’t decided yet what the color will be, just that they will be darker in color.

To the right of the picture, you can see the bat excluder plugged into the power outlet. Reader Susan in Australia suggested that I get this kind of bat repeller. I got it a couple of days after ordering from Amazon, plugged it in, and said farewell to bats! It works great! (Greatly?) Thank you Susan!

Thursday, October 8

It HAD to happen!

I remember the day when I discovered one of the large tiles in our dining room floor sitting there crooked as it could be. Somehow I guess I had stepped on it and moved it way out of square. By the time I found the problem, the cement holding it had hardened to the point that there was no way to remove it intact. Out came the big hammer. It was kinda fun banging the tile to shreds after sweating the details of getting them all in  place just so, but at the same time in the back of my mind there was the nagging thought that we had already used almost all of the tiles we had. Not only that, the tiles weren’t being made anymore. We had bought them decades earlier for a job that never materialized, and replacements just didn't exist.

When we finished the dining room, we had, besides cutoff scraps, ONE tile left over.

Shown here is the job I’m doing on our front entry. Each tile was precisely laid with spacers, so I know I hadn’t laid the piece crooked. Again, I guess I must have stepped on it and moved it before the cement dried. Dang.

But one thing is in my favor. I don’t have to break the tile out and replace it with one of the leftovers. Since it’s made of stone, it is carvable by chisel. All I have to do is chip away at the edges to make it look square. That’s another experience to add to my collection. By the time we’re finished with this house, I will have had so many experiences in so many different areas that I can probably skip the next two or three lifetimes, and spend some much-deserved time off in whatever heavenly between-lifetimes I will find myself lollilng about in. And while I’m at it, I’ll practice putting sentences together more better.

Wednesday, October 7

It's finally happening!

That ol' Sioux-dog looks bored. She'll love curling up on the new porch when it's done though.
I can’t remember how much time we spent thinking this whole front porch thing to death. But finally it’s turning into action! This morning (Karla’s birthday, by the way) I am actually going to start sticking some tile down. It’s going to be a challenge doing it right because the stuff I have to put down first is also one of the two thinnest types of tiles I’ll be using. So it’s like thinking in 3-D; get it straight in the X-Y space, and toss in the Z axis. Depth/height/flatness. Woof!

Wish me luck.

Monday, October 5

It's tile time again

It’s been awhile, but I think I can still remember how to do it. We ran across a tiling pattern at Creative Tile in Fresno. I fell in love with it and took lots of pictures, then bought all the tiles used in the pattern. There are stone and ceramic tiles, and an unusual kind that the guy helping us said is “melted Coke bottles, I think.” Our entry porch will be very nice when I finish laying out a variation on the pattern to fit the space.

Meanwhile, we’ll have to figure out a way to keep the local bats from parking themselves in the corners of the porch and using the walls and deck as their toilet. I used our pressure washer and some powerful detergent and a very stiff brush to get rid of the stains they left over the past few months. I’m not sure how to keep them away though. Any ideas?

Saturday, October 3

It's tarantula romance time

On our evening hike, Karla spotted one of our big black friends trotting across the road. These guys spend a lot of time traipsing through the weeds in search of a willing girl to impregnate. I only got to see that ritual one time, and it was fascinating. First, the girl wasn't black; she was almost cocoa-colored. They check each other out, with her remaining for the most part in her tunnel. He stroked her with his forelegs, then his pedipalps, which look like short forelegs, delivered some sperm (I think that's how it works), then both of the spiders quivered. He was finished, so he backed away and trotted off for more girl-hunting as she backed into her tunnel and disappeared from sight.

A very short romance, indeed!

Thursday, October 1

More planting

Yesterday, Wednesday, was overcast all day long. Without the sun scorching our tender skin, we were able to put in long hours digging holes for some more agaves. We have already lost plants to hungry ground-dwellers, like gophers, so we are now making baskets out of hardware cloth (wire mesh) to protect them. Since it hasn’t rained significantly in a very long time, the ground is very dry and hard. A bit of soaking with a bit of water makes it possible to dig a fairly deep hole and after planting we keep the soil wet till the plants get established.
Karla gets a nice big hole ready for its new occupant

Today we got some rain! Only twenty hundredths of an inch (5 mm) fell this morning, but we’ll take whatever comes. There is supposed to be a big rainfall season coming. Yay. But I’ll keep my garden hose at the ready till it actually happens.