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Sylvia's on the back (October 2005)


Jeremy's journal

If he hadn't been so tired, ... he might have seen at the start that he was setting out on a journey that would change his life forever and chosen to turn back.

Orhan Pamuk

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Sunday, May 22nd, 2005

🦋 Summer projects

A status update on my home improvement tasks for the summer.


  • Sylvia's room is painted and lovely; I would post a picture of it if I could figure out how to make my scanner work again. (Update: Scanner working; here's the picture.)
  • I finished building Sylvia's playhouse on Friday. Still needs to be sanded and weather-proofed.
  • The garbage-can enclosure is pretty well-thought-out now and may commence actually getting built over Labor-day weekend. (Although the priority project for that weekend is cleaning the garage.)
  • The small tool shed is still a thing of fantasy.


  • Today I started raising the slate walkway up to driveway level, and got about 3/4 of the first section done, before the rains came. The work is going pretty quickly and coming out well.
  • Next weekend, when I may-or-may-not start building the garbage enclosure, I also may-or-may-not start laying stone in the area where it is to go. I think I don't have enough bluestone to do this and would like to figure out if there's somewhere I can buy 20 or so square feet without having to buy a full pallette.
  • If I might not have enough stone for the garbage enclosure base, I certainly don't have enough to extend the back patio. So that's on hold for now.

posted evening of May 22nd, 2005: Respond
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Sunday, April 17th, 2005

🦋 Summer projects

So I have several projects I'm meaning to do, working on the house this summer. They are generally divisible into two categories; woodworking projects and patio/stone projects.


  • Today I finished installing the wall unit I've been building for Sylvia's room, that's been dragging on since late last year. Oh happy day! (Actually the desk part of it remains to be done. For now Sylvia's work table fits okay in the space where the desk will go, and she has not quite outgrown it yet. I plan to build the desk in August or so.) Ellen will be painting the wall unit in conjunction with painting Sylvia's room, which she is planning to do in the next few weeks. Before she can do that, I need to install a chair rail around the room; I ought to get to that sometime this week. Also Ellen was mentioning that it would be nice to build a small shelf on the wall by the head of Sylvia's bed, to hold a box of tissues and some other things.
  • Two summers ago I built Sylvia a sandbox in our back yard, with the intention to build a playhouse above it. That is currently the next project on my plate, and I am going to start designing it this afternoon.
  • Ellen has asked me to build an enclosure for our garbage cans, which are currently loose in the side yard. I will be doing that after the playhouse is finished, hopefully in a month or so. I need to do this in conjunction with some of the patio work below.
  • Also in conjunction with the patio work, I would like to build a small shed by the side of our house, to store our barbecue and some garden tools.


The major project last summer was laying a bluestone patio in our back yard and a slate walkway next to our driveway. A few things remain to be done before that is really finished.

  • The slate walkway is just slightly too low, about 1/4 - 1/2", and it drains poorly. A quick project of a couple of hours will be just going down the length of it, lifting up each rock and packing more sand under it to bring the walk up level with the side of the driveway.
  • A section in front of the porch, where I am going to build the enclosure for the garbage cans, needs to be leveled and filled with sand and stone. This is only about a day's work, but I need to finalize the design of the enclosure first.
  • I would like to extend the back yard patio in one place to make it reach the fence. This is where I am planning to build the shed.

posted afternoon of April 17th, 2005: Respond
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Sunday, August 8th, 2004

The saga of repairing my patio continues...

The story so far: when we moved into this house it had a broken-up, uneven bluestone patio in the back yard, and I thought I would like to learn how to fix it, make it flat and even. Ellen's cousin Danny came over and offered to donate some slate flagstones he had in his side yard toward the cause. (At that point I thought the patio was made of slate.) After getting them home I realized they would not work in the back yard, and decided instead to build a walkway/garden border in the front yard. I did that last summer -- it came out really well (or at least "really well for a first masonry project by someone who didn't have much of a clue") and I had some slate left over. This spring I extended the walkway back past the side of our house, next to the garage. And I was ready to start on the patio itself!

So two weeks ago I drove down to Brick, NJ, where there is Bedrock Stone, excellent stone yard that I recommend wholeheartedly. Bought a pallette of 1 1/2" rectangular bluestone and a pallette of broken bluestone pieces; and on the way home I stopped at Maplewood Garden Supply to get 3 cubic yards of bluestone dust. (Note: the dump truck which brought the dust would not have been able to get into our back yard, were it not for the new gate I built. Nice feeling.) That stuff has been sitting in our driveway for the past 2 weeks; and when my father came to town this weekend, I asked if he'd like to help me work on the patio. He was game, and we completed the work I was hoping to get done -- namely, the narrow part of the patio (4' X 27') that runs from the driveway to the main patio. This part had previously been extremely broken up -- hence the new flag stones -- and repaired in patches with slate. We put in a layer of dust to even the ground beneath it, and laid in new stones, and built a low border from the broken stone pieces. The old flag stones that I could salvage are stacked in the driveway, waiting to be used in extending the main part of the patio back into the yard a little ways, which may happen as soon as this fall. First I need to get to evening up the main part of the patio, where the stones are mostly whole or else cleanly broken, so I will be able to use the existing stones. (This is good because they are 1" thick and thus possible for me to lift without a second person.) That will be happening at the end of the month, if all goes according to plan.

posted evening of August 8th, 2004: Respond
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Friday, June 18th, 2004

🦋 Weekend update

We went to a Kerry house party tonight, at Mark and Marina's place. It was a very nice time -- not quite inspirational, but definitely encouraging. Kerry's elder sister Peggy spoke about the campaign, and about her brother's commitment to getting the U.S. out of the hole it's presently in. Ellen and I decided to do some volunteer work over the summer.

Lots of digging in store for me tomorrow! I hope it is not too hot -- Ellen has a lot of plants for me to put in the ground, plus two large bushes for me to take out of it. (One is dead, and the other needs to be transplanted.) And I want to make a start at extending my stone path back along the side of the house, underneath the gate I built. Tomorrow afternoon there will be a going away party for Jim (who is moving to Vermont).

posted evening of June 18th, 2004: Respond
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Thursday, October 23rd, 2003

🦋 Project pix

Developed pictures of the two projects I have finished recently:

The Windowseat

The Stone Path

posted evening of October 23rd, 2003: Respond
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Monday, August 25th, 2003

🦋 Yard work

Today was spent digging. My back is sore, so are my legs, and my arms have very little energy left in them. I dug up the entire path in my front yard, about 25' X 1' X 8", and filled it with sand and started laying the stones in it. I had been planning to cut the stones to shape; but that turns out to be very difficult, so I am instead just hunting for stones of roughly the shape I need and using them as is. The beginning of the path looks pretty good, after several tries with different stones.

posted evening of August 25th, 2003: Respond

Saturday, August 23rd, 2003

We're back in town -- the week was a flurry of fun activity. I would like to write a long post about it but I don't know whether I will or not -- I have other stuff to do this week like building a path in my yard and finishing the window seat. If you are dying to know about it send me a note and I will give that a higher priority.

posted evening of August 23rd, 2003: Respond

Saturday, July 26th, 2003

🦋 Projects

Here is an inventory of home improvement projects I want to work on:

  • Window seat: which I have, ridiculously, still not begun working on; but today I bought some lumber for it and cleaned up my shop, so I have no excuses left...
  • Paths in the front yard: I have the slate, I have the tools to cut it; I am hoping to do these paths in the third week of August, when I will be on vacation.
  • Path next to the house: Really the same project as the above, I just don't think I have enough slate right now to do it. I want to see how the first path goes before I schedule the others.
  • Backyard patio: Again, waiting to see how difficult this slate laying stuff really is.
  • Stone at base of side porch: This is going to be pretty complex and I have not really planned yet how it should look.
  • New steps for side porch
  • Breakfast nook
  • Bookcases for Ellen's office: Ellen is breathing down my neck on this so they may come before the breakfast nook.
  • Bookcases for living room: I've had an idea for this since we moved here...
  • Dining room table: Again, I've had a very clear picture of this kicking around my head for about nine months now.

posted evening of July 26th, 2003: Respond
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Monday, May 26th, 2003

🦋 Yard Work

Today I put stones in the back yard to make a path between the lawn and the driveway. They were slate that I took out of the ground at the back of the garage. Very thick, about 2", so I dug holes of the appropriate shape to receive them. It worked out very well -- although a couple of them rock very slightly, I am thinking that will go away after they get walked on some. If not, I will take them up and redo.

I am seeing this as practice for the back patio, which is going to be a huge project. Maybe I will do that during my August vacation. For that I need to: measure the area of the patio; buy stones and sand; take up the old stones; level the ground; put the old and new stones down.

posted evening of May 26th, 2003: Respond

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