buster0828I thought we’d lost her yesterday: Buster, our Russian tortoise. Lately on weekends I’ve been taking her out of the self-contained hutch we built in 2007 and letting her have what we call the “pumpkin patch,” a roughly 10′ x 4′ section of the backyard normally reserved during this time of year for any would-be jack o’ lanterns I attempt to grow.

With its perimeter built up with river rocks and bricks, the patch has proven to contain Buster pretty well, thanks to me paying close attention to the weakest exit points that she inevitably and incessantly will exploit and then strengthening them in some manner… maybe with a repositioned river rock or some stakes driven into the dirt that she can’t defeat.

At dusk last night, when it came time to move her back from the patch into her hutch, she was gone. I asked Susan if she’d returned her, and she said no. I wondered if perhaps one of our kitchen renovation workers, not knowing the exploratory nature of tortoises had seen Buster trying to escape and helped her over the barrier figuring “How far can a tortoise go?” That’s a typical rhetorical people ask themselves and the answer is “Far enough that you may never see them again.”

I’m serious. They can get themselves under some foliage, dig down into the soft earth and even though they’re theoretically under your nose, they’re just as completely GONE as if they’d managed to crawl all the way to Kern County.

My first thought was one of relief because I was pretty sure she was at least somewhere in the backyard as there weren’t any readily accessible escape routes out of it. But compounding matters and fears, said workers had left the backyard gate nearest the patch open during their time here, meaning that if Buster either escaped on her own or was assisted, she was only about 15 feet and one low step away from getting beyond the backyard into the north side yard, with its thick growth offering plenty of places to hunker down over night before setting out for Kern County in the morning.

So time was pretty much of the essence, and with the daylight failing Susan and I got busy. I stuck to the backyard and north side of the house while Susan went all the way down to the street and down the block.

You think that’s silly? Then check out my account below of an escape she made back in 2004. The use of “Miracle” in the headline is NOT an exaggeration.

Long story cut short: There was much rejoicing and relief when I found Buster still in the backyard, instead of going out the open gate she made a left and crawled under the potting table among a half-dozen or so brown widow spiders, wedging herself against the outside of the kitchen wall.

Maybe she was interested in the renovation’s progress.

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Lately (and to the point of ad nauseum in my less-than-humble opinion) there’s been a trend fadding or a fad trending called the ALS Bucket Challenge, nobly started to raise money for research into Lou Gehrig’s Disease, but now everybody’s seemingly dumping buckets of iced water over their heads and challenging everybody else to do the same.

My particular bucket challenge isn’t something I’d demand anyone else do nor does it waste a drop of water. As alluded to in my previous post I got busy yesterday afternoon transferring the above-pictured big ol’ pallet of brick slices from my parking space in the garage up 17 steps and around to the side yard using two of the pictured buckets.

To be specific, a bucket holds 20 pieces weighing 44.6 pounds (yes, I weighed one). On Facebook yesterday I submitted the above picture and opened up the guessing as to how many buckets it might take. Here’s the comment thread that resulted:

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Roughly three hours later, the transfer was completed involving a total of 52.5 buckets (kudos to Steven Frein for his guess of 50 buckets).

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Here’s where they ended up neatly stacked in the sideyard:

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And whilst enjoying a cold beer afterward, I did the math and can now use the term “ton o’ bricks” quite literally: 52.5 buckets at 44.6 pounds per bucket equals a total weight of 2,341.5 pounds, that I loaded, carried up 17 steps, and unloaded. The total number of half-bricks was 1,050.

If my back and the rest of me weren’t so totally freakin’ exhausted I’d be feeling pretty badass right about now.

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Demo of all cabinetry, lathe and plaster and flooring commenced Monday and was fast and furiously done, giving way to the entirely unsexy but essential plumbing and electrical work that continues on the underguts of the kitchen and future pantry and laundry room (out of view behind the cam). Removal of the laminate wood flooring and subflooring (concrete! and linoleum) revealed a tangled web of pipes and wiring that an inspector would have said “Oh hail nah!” to and so were ripped out and are now in the slightly protracted process of being replaced.

In other news that left wall of the kitchen will need reframing. The 2x4s were installed wide side out, which is how they were allowed to build things in the early 1900s, but the opposite orientation is how walls must be built nowadays.

And also, we’ll be adding first-time insulation to all the exterior walls.

Lastly, if I’m feeling like a particular glutton for punishment, I may give myself a workout today hauling up the pallet of cut Simons bricks that will be our future kitchen floor up to the side yard from the garage where they’ve been all week.

simonsWhy Simons bricks specifically? Good of you to ask. The Simons Brick Company (roughly 1900-1952), located first in Pasadena and then in what is now the City of Commerce, was a major supplier of bricks for the southern California region, including our 1906 house’s original foundation (replaced in 1999). Susan and I originally considered saltillo tile for the kitchen and pantry, but that just didn’t seem to fit in to the Craftsman style. So we thought about brick as having a stronger connection and then we wondered how awesome would it be if we could find enough Simons bricks, have them cut to paver depth and install them.

When that initially proved a pipe dream, we considered reclaimed-look brick tiles from an array of manufacturers but the color and consistency wasn’t quite right. Rather than settle, Susan undertook an epic expedition and in what was something of a miracle finally found a salvage yard in the South Bay that not only had plenty of Simons bricks onhand, but bonus: could cut them as well. In doing so we went from spending about $12 per square foot for the flooring of our kitchen and pantry to $4.

And now a pallet of them sits in my parking space in the garage. We’ll see if they’re up in the sideyard and I’m exhausted by the end of the day.

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before

 

after

… and counting.

Deleted all related apps and deactivated all related accounts.

Make no mistake, given the withdrawal I’m experiencing it is an addiction I’m battling. But at least I’m winning.

And the streak of consecutive days riding my bike endeth at 5 — faaaaar short of the 50 I’d hoped for. The following reasons are ALL excuses why I didn’t ride yesterday: a super early start to the day (had to be at the office at 6AM); driving (more like crawling) to Santa Monica’s REI and home after work to pick up the kayaks; voting; two glasses of wine with dinner.

Oh well, let’s try for 49 out of 50.

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