Building Walls

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I know that the topic of building a wall can lead to many different comments, points of view and political commentary.  This post is not about building that type of wall. 

In our backyard, we have a small retaining wall that was built about 19 years ago. Unfortunately, over the years, the east side of the wall was starting to sag significantly.  

 

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For the past couple of years, I had thought about how to go about fixing the wall.  Having built other retaining wall in my yard (no, I did not build this one!), I knew what needed to be done.  I was just concerned that I may not be able to handle all of the lifting.  Each block weighs 60 pounds, and there were 75 blocks that would need to removed and then replaced.  

Since my two sons at home were busy with finals, and I was unable to find anyone else to hire for my manual labor, I decided to tackle the project by myself. 

At first I set up a ramp system to roll a furniture dolly up and use the dolly to roll each block down the ramp.  This worked okay for the first couple of blocks.  However, I needed to dismantle the ramp and move it over for each block I needed to move.  So, instead I decided to see if I could just lift the blocks.  While they were heavy, that turned out to be much easier than constantly having to set up and move a ramp system.  

While taking down the blocks, I discovered two things that the contractor had done that were wrong.  These two “shortcuts” probably contributed to the wall tipping. 

First, the lowest layer of blocks was placed directly onto soil, no class V gravel nor rock base whatsoever.  So, as a went along, I dug out dirt and then added and tamped down a 2″ layer of gravel below the bottom blocks to provide support for the blocks.  

Second, the contractor did not place any landscape fabric behind the blocks.  The landscape fabric is there to help keep the dirt behind the wall intact and less likely to wash away.  Had they done this, it sure would have made restacking the wall a lot easier.  Unfortunately, without the landscape fabric, when I removed the blocks, the wall of dirt behind would crumble. This made the project so much harder.  I ended up having to work in small sections so that the support for the wall was not removed along the entire length.  

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Starting by the small staircase and slowly worked my way down to the other end.  Yesterday, I spent 12 hours removing the cap stones and blocks and rebuilding the wall.  I did not put the capstone on yesterday.  At the end of the day, I chiseled off the old block adhesive, power washed to top layer of the wall and the underside of the capstones, and left them to dry overnight.

Today, I spent about another 90 minutes securing the capstones in place with block adhesive , repairing the dirt in front of the wall and repositioning the mulch. What a change.  The distance from the apple tree to the front of the retaining wall is 10″ less than when the wall was sagging.

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While I was building the wall, one of my sons came out and spent some time thinking about how much weight I had lifted.  I removed 75 blocks  that were 60# in weight.  These same 75 blocks needed to be reset into the wall.  So the grand total of weight lifted was 9000 pounds.  Surprisingly my back does not hurt today, just a bit of an ache in my butt (yes, I know there is a not so nice way to state that same information that may also relate to how some people would feel about doing a project like this). 

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Big Improvement! And one major yard project done for the spring. 

The weather this weekend was ideal Minnesota Spring weather.  It’s past the time of spring that my allergies are really bad, the humidity was very low, the temperatures were perfect, and there are no bugs out yet!!

All-in-all it was a great weekend spent outdoors.

 

Family & Birthdays

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Yesterday was the twenty third birthday of my third son, Ben.  Happy Birthday Ben!

We were blessed to be able to celebrate the day with him.  Well, okay, maybe just the evening. I have been spending most of my time writing up protocols (Covid-19 Business Plan, Respiratory Protection Plan, etc).  All the government regulations can be a bit overwhelming. Ben spent his day doing classwork on-line and preparing for finals.

But, since he is at our home and not in Brooklyn, I felt we needed to do something special for him.  So, he selected a recipe for me to make – Vegetarian Ramen (Bon Appetit), I did some shopping and together we made the recipe.  We did need to leave out some things due to my allergies. This did turn out very tasty.

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Some pecan pie for dessert and a long family conversation with my sons who live out of town was an enjoyable way to spend my evening.

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Frogs – In the Garden (& Clinic?)

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For those that are unaware, I am a pediatric dentist by profession.  I work with a group of seven doctors and 37 staff.  Nearly all of the procedures we perform (tooth cleanings, filling, crowns, etc) create an aerosol.  This is problematic in the current viral pandemic because the aerosol could put everyone at risk.  So, we know we will need to change our PPE (personal protective equipment) when we reopen our practice.

Because all of the PPE is being directed to medical facilities, as a dentist, it is nearly impossible to obtain face shields and masks.  In anticipation of this being a problem, when my son came home from NYC, I spent some time talking with him about 3D printers and how to use one to make our own masks and face shields.  I am very fortunate that, as an architecture student, he has lots of experience with several types of printers.

With his help, several weeks ago I purchased a Prusa printer kit. I ordered a kit for two reasons.  First, it was less expensive and I could get a better printer for less cost.  And, more importantly, the cost of the kit was just below the limit for having to pay import duties.  The kit took 18 days to arrive.  I am really glad I ordered when I did, because the estimate now is 5-6 weeks.

When the kit arrived, we needed to build the printer.  Okay, to be honest, it was mostly my son who put it together.  But, I did do a couple hours of the process.  The kit was like trying to build a house sold by IKEA!  The manual for putting it together was 225 pages long.  Fortunately the directions and photos were excellent.

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It was exciting when the build was completed.  The first thing we printed was one of the sample files that came with the printer.  It was a tree frog.

Since the plan is to print things for use in my dental office, I wanted to verify that the printed items could be sterilized in our office steam autoclave.  I took the frog to one of my offices and tested it in the  autoclave.  The plastic filament was not impacted by the heat or the steam.  However, I forgot that the frog was printed as a hollow form with air trapped inside.  So, when the air heated up and expanded, it caused the belly of the frog to pop out.  I now have a pregnant looking frog!!.  This should not be a problem with the other items I plan to print because they do not have a large space with trapped air.

I am in the process of testing out different face shield and mask ideas.  I’ll give an update on those in a few days.

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In the meantime, and keeping with the frog theme, I thought I would give some information about a new piece of garden art that is in my flower bed.  Over the winter, one of the glass projects I made was a really cute frog.

The construction of this was somewhat similar to the turtle that I made last summer (July 14, 2019 post). It has a copper understructure with copper wire legs soldered and the glass attached to the copper.  When making it, I didn’t want to mess around with creating a custom slumping mold to “shape” the frog.  So, I left the glass flat.  Once the flowers start growing, I think this will be really cute in my garden.

Who knew there were so many inspirational quotes about frogs (google it and see for yourself)!

Perfect Day

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Each day, I spend time watching webinars, reading research papers and thinking about the ideas on how to prepare for providing dental treatment when we are allowed to reopen, while still protecting my patients, my staff and myself.

But this time can also cause a lot of anxiety.  So, this weekend, I also spent some time outside working in my yard.  The weather was so much better than last Sunday.  Sunshine and fresh air is great for reducing anxiety. 

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On Tuesday, I had a load of mulch delivered.   Seventy five bags of cypress mulch to spread around the shrubs and trees.  And, ten bags of black mulch for the flower beds (I like how this mulch looks like dirt when spread around flowers).  So, this weekend, I starting spreading the mulch and making my yard ready for summer.  

 

I also pulled out my yard art and put them in the planting beds and planters.  It’s nice to have something lovely to lift my spirit.  

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A few weeks ago, I found a lovely flower wreath for my front door.  It really brightens up my entryway. 

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I even put out some new yard art that I made over the winter.  I now have a glass frog and a glass ladybug in my planting  beds. I’ll give some details on how to make these later this week.  

What really made today perfect, was reflecting on God’s creation around me.

  • The beauty of the flowers popping through the ground.
  • The delight of the bird’s singing in the trees.
  • The wildlife wondering through my life (well, maybe not the turkeys!). 

A Wedding in an Uncertain time

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A cousin’s son was planning his wedding for later this spring.  Unfortunately, with social distancing, large gatherings and groups are not going to be allowed for a while and their plans were cancelled.

However, to make the most of the unfortunately times we are living in, they moved up their wedding to today and live streamed on Facebook.  A nice spring day with no rain or snow allowed for an intimate outdoor wedding. 

It was awesome to witness the ceremony and the couple pledging their love to each other and to God.

We wish Jeff and Julianna a wonderful and magical life together!  May God truly bless your marraige!

Everything is Possible

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Our church has been given the challenge of making 100,000 masks for local hospitals.  

This seems like a daunting task, but with organization everything is possible. The coordinator at our church has set up teams – someone to wash and iron the fabric, someone to cut  the fabric, someone to sew the masks and someone to transport items from each team member and back to church.  This seems like a major challenge, but I have decided to jump in and help. But, I have so much excess fabric (thanks to my mom and my sister) that I am working as my own team.  This should be a good way to use up some of the colors that I would ordinarily not use in a quilt.  The pattern is a basic pattern that is much simpler than the one I had used to make masks before.  So, it should be faster sewing.  

So now that I am done with some yard work, I will spend a couple hours making masks.  

Some good music to listen to will make the time go by quickly.

Cancelled, Not!

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Reflecting back on this past Easter weekend, I am struck by how different our celebration was, but also how much better our celebration and how normal our celebration was.

The difference was that we were at home.  There was  no need to get dressed up, no rush to get dinner ready after church, and no extended family gathering.

With so the church services on-line, we were able to have a better celebration by participating in several different Easter celebrations. Normally, I would not have even thought to check out other church services.  But, this year, my extended family shared links to their church services.

These links gave me a sense of normalcy.  We are still able to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior.  While many things have been cancelled, kindness around us is not cancelled. God’s love and our love for family and friends is not cancelled. Hope is not cancelled.  And faith is not cancelled.

Indeed, he is “Still Rolling Stones”.

See the Light

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Today is the third day in a row with snow falling – sometimes falling really heavy.  I have been SO looking forward to being outside and doing yard work.

One week ago today it was 70 degrees outside and I spent several hours pressure washing my deck and patio.  On Saturday, we hit 60 and I was raking leaves.  But, now we are dealing with the fickle spring weather that Minnesota gets each year.

I guess I really shouldn’t complain. It could be worse.  Two years ago today we had a major blizzard.  That day we received over 12 inches of snow with high winds.

At least today the sun does come out between episodes of snow fall.  In fact, while I am writing this post, I have had several episodes of snow fall separated by a few minutes of bright sunshine. Hopefully this weekend I will be able to get outside and start doing some spring projects.

In the meantime, I am working on some quilting projects.  A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was “making my own sunshine” while piecing a wall quilt.  I am now at the point of quilting this landscape quilt. So, I will share a photo of a small part of the quilt that shows the “light” that I am quilting today.

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Somewhere, Nowhere.

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Am I going somewhere?  Am I going nowhere? Those are my daily thoughts.

In Minnesota, even our weather doesn’t know what it is supposed to be doing.

Is it winter?  Is it spring?

Saturday, we had sunshine and 60 degrees.  I spent several hours outside raking and blowing leaves and cleaning out my flower beds.  Our neighbors opened up their pool for the season.  My spring bulbs were starting to pop, and I even planted some pansies in my flower pots.

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Sunday (less than 24 hours later), we had snow falling.  By the time the snow had ended, we had over 7 inches of snow on the ground.

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Hopefully the sunshine and warm weather will come back soon!