Friday, May 23, 2008

Stumbling right along...

Yes (for those of you who sometimes wonder) we are still inching our way toward completing this house! Hey, what's a few more months of one's life spent waiting on sub-contractors. We now are of the opinion that we have in fact have gotten a pretty good handle on the "two steps back" concept. Some days we even see the "one step forward" bit, as well. Not every day, mind you. But sometimes.

In the meantime we still love the place. Both the house, and the TCI. We still get woken up every morning by the sunrises;

And we try to start every day optimistic that something major will get accomplished. Unrealistic, yeah we know, but it's a good attitude to have starting out.

The landscaping continues to be the main focus at the moment. This week the contractor managed to get a load of "topsoil" delivered. I hesitate to call it topsoil, because I counted five automobile tires in this particular load. I mentioned that to the contractor, and he proceeded to tell me about the time he got a truck load of topsoil that included an entire car. maybe five tires isn't so bad. At least we didn't see any body parts in it. Automobile or otherwise. And no, we really don't need to know where this topsoil came from. On an island made entirely of limestone, it might be best not to ask too many questions about organics. It doesn't stink. That we know.

Of course it got delivered just in time to block off the driveway as I was about to head out to the hardware store :

Ain't no driving around or under that thing. Patience is a virtue.

They did manage to get the topsoil spread around and clear the driveway. And then they delivered one of those little "Bobcat" machines with a front-end loader. This was in anticipation of two loads of fill they needed to extend the second driveway out far enough to complete that portion of the landscaping. I want enough straight driveway to park a tow vehicle and a boat trailer. So, in order to complete the landscaping there they have to build that part of the driveway.

Strangely enough, the people who were supposed to deliver the two loads of dirt did not show up on the day they promised to deliver the dirt.... Gosh, how unusual. So we had this little machine sitting there in the driveway with nothing to do. At $$$ per day rental. Well, I had always wondered what it was like to drive one of these Bobcats, they are kinda cute. Sort of like a Tonka Toy truck for the bigger kids...(like me) so after studying it from several angles, I climbed in to see what the controls looked like:

Yeah, I sat there a few minutes making motor noises and looking around at this expensive sand box.....and.....well hey, the key was in the ignition, so I decided to see if it would start. No harm in that, right? And it did. Fired right up with a roar of infernal combustion, diesel fumes, and all kinds of hydraulic pump noises. Cool.

A few minutes playing with various pedals and levers, throttle, various switches, and I discovered that I could actually move and steer it, and control the bucket. It's kind of like a little helicopter without the takes both hands and both feet to drive it. After figuring out which lever did what, I rationalized that we didn't want it sitting in front of the house all weekend, idle, so I decided to back it around out of the way. Just move it a bit.

This was so much fun I thought I would get some use out of it, and sucked up my courage and took off out of the driveway. Make a few turns with that drop-off on the side of the road. A few minutes of messing around and I was ready to head down the road in search of some rocks to move:

I was able to start scooping up loose rock and fill from the side of the road, and after only scaring myself a couple dozen times, I managed to drive it around miss the corners of the house, and start dropping some limestone on the new driveway:

Only a few hundred more trips, and we should have a good start on it.

Driving this thing is easy on level ground. It gets a little more interesting driving up and down slopes and over rough ground and bare rock. You don't steer them with a wheel, but by reversing the wheels on one side or the other like a bulldozer. Takes a little getting used to.

Of course the dog was pretty interested in all this. He has seen me handling various machines early in the learning curve before in his brief life. He watched me with ultralight aircraft, and in three different boats so far. Now he was keeping a close eye on this new contraption. And I noticed that he even had the sense to keep a nice solid wall between himself and the Bobcat:

So I spent a big part of the afternoon cruising around scooping up bucketloads of rocks and dumping them. Of course eventually the fill got delivered, and the regular Bobcat driver showed up and took my new toy away from me. Two loads was not enough, and in fact four loads was not enough. So we have agreed for four MORE loads of fill. I am kinda hoping that I get another chance to drive it.

Meanwhile, until this driveway fill issue and the irrigation system get sorted out, a lot of our new plants that have not been planted yet are living in various spots under the house:

Some are still stacked up by the front door:

and we have some still underneath the deck as well:

It's starting to do some of what he hoped, though. For example, it's forming a nice screen between the open door of the garage/workshop and the road:

A nice man from the Dominican Republic named Marino has been making little erosion barriers from rocks. It's taking us about two hours a day to water these things. Eventually, of course, it will all be automatic.

I have been looking for a good sunset to photograph, but lately they have been kind of boring. More stuff like this, for the most part:

(it still looks better through the trees, I think)

And this one showed some promise for a while:

Oh we have taken a few other photos this week, and I plan to write another post over the weekend that will have NO photos of the landscaping. We also can now report that we have a web-cam on the way and La Gringa should have that up and running in the next few days. I may have to build some kind of weather-proof enclosure for it so that it can live outside.

And we found out that this blog is in some kind of blog competition! La Gringa posted a link to it over here on the right of the page. If you like the blog and feel like voting for it, please follow this link: You can vote as many time as you like. (If nothing else, it's probably a good lead to find some other blogs that might interest you.)

And as always, the comments and emails are very much appreciated. Feedback is good.


Anonymous said...

How do you feel about the layout of the house after living in for a while? Is the workmanship in the house as good as you had hoped?

The sunsets look great. You can just see what looks like a marina off to the right in one of the photographs. Is that where you keep your boat?

Great reading as usual.

John S.
Jamestown, RI

Anonymous said...

I was starting to get worried for you - some mad landscaper had done you in and buried you among the palm trees. It's looking real nice with the trees softening the rock. Had a good chuckle at your bobcat efforts - I did exactly the same thing once, except this one had tracks rather than wheels. Damn near shook my teeth out when it moved but what a fun little toy!

Anonymous said...

After living in the house for three months now, there are surprisingly few things that we would change if we were to do it over again. I might consider a different approach to garage doors, but once I get them working correctly ( nobody else in this country seems to be able to) I might be happier about that. The overall siting of the garage work/shop is not my favorite part of the design. Frankly, I don't much like it. The slope of the driveway is too steep. But as for the house itself, it's working out pretty much as we designed it. We could use a few more square feet of space, but then, who couldn't?

As for the quality of the workmanship, from what I have seen elsewhere in the TCI it's pretty danged good. La Gringa says I am a bit too critical, sometimes, but that's probably just a character flaw rather than a craftsmanship issue.

We DID keep our boat at that marina for a year. The problem is that although (as you can see in the photos) it is only about 900 yards from the house, in order to get to it we have to drive 10.2 miles. And 7 of those miles are on unpaved, rough roads.

Hey Bender, we are still alive and kicking. Haven't been posting as much simply because I feel that the house stuff just probably isn't as interesting as the boating/fishing/diving stuff. I cannot believe people would be interested in seeing every little thing going on with building a house, and yet it's been taking up just about all of our time for the past three months.

If people reading the blog wanted to read more of that, it would be easy enough to do.

La Gringa said...

Hi Bender!

Naw, they won't bury us yet - we still owe them money! :-)