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We were blessed with the presence of grandchildren this weekend. They brought their two puppies and with our two puppies, we had a real Caesar Milan-style puppy pack in residence! Remy, in particular, enjoyed the freedom of our doggy door, running in and out and in and out and… it made me dizzy to watch, so I stopped watching.

More excitement! The front seat viewing was crowded:

Rapt attention was paid as more bricks took their place in line, DH encircled the front yard dogwood with bricks. Aidan and Liam transplanted the crocus into the new planting bed inside it. Much tromping up and down the new walkways helped pack the bricks firmly (there was a machine for that, but the boys knew their contribution made a big difference!).

Already I am adjusted to no forsythia bushes in front of the house. No squashed evergreen bushes, or over-grown flaming bush hide the side yard or front of the house. Today the grass seed was spread and lightly raked in, ready for the incoming rains to (hopefully) soak them into the ground, take root, and flourish. Then again,the rains we have had lately are not the light misting or gentle soaking kind… they have been the flooding, drenching, wash-it-all-away kind. DH prepared by buying *extra* bags of grass seed.

DSis asked for shots of the driveway. Not too much to see just now… just mountains of bricks ready to begin laying in:

Progress!

Side Note #1: We are all exhausted!
Side Note #2: Soldier Socks for DS are DONE!

Dave is still our newest best friend. He arrives around 7 (ouch!) every morning and works through until 5-6PM. The image from this morning suffered from solar glare, while this evening’s photo reflects overcast and early twilight lighting.

The fancy-schmancy medallion is where the path to the street and the one to the driveway intersect. It didn’t add much (relatively) to the overall cost, either.

This remodeling activity has developed quite a stir in the neighborhood. Neighbors slow down to check progress. One stopped me this evening as I returned home to tell me how impressed she was with the difference this renovation made to our house and street. Her car idled in the middle of the street as she continued her comments. She had liked the forsythias, but they had been in front of out house practically since it was built over 45 years ago. This was EXCITING!

DH says the local school bus drivers drove down our street a few times and one stopped to stare at the change. People walking dogs, children coming home from school, even the local precinct cars make regular runs by our house to check for changes. Dixie and Duncan LOVE the panorama!

And this is only the 6th day. If all goes well, the project will be completed between the 14th and 18th workday, weather permitting. Dave (our new best friend) works 6 days out of 7. Go Dave!

This was an early morning, not-quite-awake shot of the progress for the Rock Wall Report.

The puppies announced the arrival (*before* 7 AM) of the workers come to take our worries and rocks away. After a 10-15 minute second-by-second update from Dixie and Duncan (woo-woo! and woof!, they settled in on the front couch to watch. The noise was unsettling, but with their human pack leaders in sight, they settled in and even escaped to inspect the project up close a time or two.

To recap, Sunday afternoon, the view was: (click on images to embiggen them)

and 

On Monday the loose bricks on the front walkways were lifted and carted off to the back and side of the yard. Areas were marked for excavation. This morning (if I haven’t been to bed yet, it is still ‘this’ morning) the work began in earnest:

DH assured me that I was better off at my morning dental appointment and later at work, because there were several heart-stopping moments when the sheer size of the rocks threatened to topple workers or crash into non-sanctioned areas. But all ended well. (read: What I don’t know won’t drive me crazy.)

After finishing the driveway rock walls, the crew turned their attention to scraping the front lawn (goodbye dandelions! goodbye weeds! goodbye grubs! goodbye green stuff we mowed and called ‘lawn’!), smoothing out the grade from the house to the street, removing the forsythia (DH has always hated it—allergies, don’cha know) and assorted other plantings (did you know that the pretty Flaming Bush is considered an invasive plant in Massachusetts? I can show you why…).

Fortunately for me and my shoes, the base for the brick walkway was spread before I had to climb through the mud to the front door tonight.

Yes, Dave and his crew are definitely our new best friends. They worked 11 hours straight in raw, wet weather. The only mud in the house came from our puppies.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it. And they are due back tomorrow. Brick time!

Our new best friend is “Dave.”

Dave is tearing down (more like the wolf who huffed and puffed, because there is not much holding them upright at this point) our decrepit driveway walls tomorrow. To prepare for this event, over the weekend we had to tear up relocate the plants along the walls and consider where their best survival rate location would be just in case they stayed there for… um… a year or more while we dithered, disagreed, and fussed over the *best* relocation location.

DH excavated the wiring to the front lamp which turned out to have been embedded in concrete. Not salvageable. It looks like a drunken sailor listing to port (starboard?) in this picture. This image also shows the earth eruptions of plant excavation. The Hosta struggled mightily with the ever-expanding chipmunk condo residents of our rock walls. I have no doubt it will survive and rejoice no matter where we put it as long as it is away from the tiny rodents nibbling on its roots.

The poppies are probably *not* going to weather the move because they really haven’t liked anyplace I have tried planting them here. Planting flowering bulbs, tubers, and bushes are really like longer-lasting floral arrangements for me. Most die or do not come back as nicely in following seasons. My sister inherited all of Grampa’s gardening glory. Like him, her touch and casual (but passionate) gardening efforts always brings out the very best that any plant can offer. Me, not so much.

In preparation for bringing the walls down tomorrow, our best friend Dave came this morning at 7:10 AM and literally shoveled up the remainder of the front brick walkway. The same bricks we had been picking out one by one and stacking, he just came and shoveled up out of the ground in a matter of moments.

Since the stairway was built into the rock wall itself (and repaired a few times after harsh winters), they actually have some concrete holding them up and together. Not so the rocks they were built into.

The general theme here is that access to the driveway is hazardous. Access to the side parking pad is impossible due to the mountains of gravel already dumped in preparation for the new walls. As of this evening, I have about ten feet at the extreme left of our property to park on the street to be out of the way of the workers who will be bringing trucks and heavy equipment to remove the big rocks at…um… around 7-7:10 AM tomorrow morning.

And yet, despite all the tromping, heavy raking, brick erupting, wheelbarrow toting… some plants still poked their delicate heads above ground to say “Spring!”

The real title is Pay it Forward for creative people but that is too intimidating. The way I play it is Pay it Forward for EVERYbody:

I promise to send something handmade to the first 5 people who leave a comment to this update. They must in turn promise to post this and send something they made to the first 5 posters on their status. The rules are that it must be handmade by you and it must be sent to your 5 people sometime in 2010. (Thank you, Lori, for sharing this idea!)

I have decided that handmade includes written works, music mixes, sticks and string creations, beading, photography, craftworks, cards, paintings, food, gardening tips, and whatever else you can think up.

Have fun. I know I will!

and thanks for being there.

The original owner of our house built these walls. I hear he was very proud of his labors. Stone by massive stone he built the walls of our driveway and made yearly repairs to same.

We didn’t.

Over the past dozen or so years of our residence we have taken these walls for granted; cursing, but still turning a mostly blind eye to the chipmunk nation that has taken up residence in the walls. With their persistent burrowing, more and more of the sand and mortar holding the rocks in place have been dislodged and pushed out like we take out the trash. The resulting piles of sand reminded me of the sands in an hourglass, marking the time until no sand or mortar was left to hold the massive stones in place.

By last winter the gradual swelling of chipmunk breeding made the outer edges of the walls look like a swollen belly in mid-belch and I stopped parking in the driveway. This change in behavior, more than anything else, convinced DH there was something to be concerned about.

The driveway, like the walls, received just as much care as the walls did over the years. Frost heaves, common up here, split the asphalt surface showing it to be a thin coating instead of a proper layer. A simple recoating of tar or asphalt would not fix it. We needed to replace it.

It is a leap of faith to commence such a project when the economy is what it is, but we do have it in savings and waiting longer would make the expense *much* worse.

And it will look loverly when done..

I think one of the reasons DH is looking forward to the completion of this project is that it means the forsythia lining the street in front of our property will be ripped out. He hates forsythia with its pollen that coats both the ground and the emerging leaves because it drives his allergies haywire.

If I spent all my waking hours sneezing from it I might feel the same way. But since I don’t, I’ll miss the cheery yellow greeting me in the morning and as I come home at night while it is in bloom.

But I’ll enjoy being able to park in the driveway more than I’ll miss the forsythia.

I do believe that Facebook has ‘arrived.’ You can ‘friend’ someone AND ‘unfriend’ or ‘defriend’ someone. It says so right here.

As of a few days ago, I can even get my blog posts on my Facebook page as soon as I publish it. Ah, Vanity, meet Technology; Technology meet…oh, you’ve already met, I see. <g>

The Oxford Word of the Year 2009 was originally posted last November, but I can’t keep up with everything I see and hear even if I could take a 2-hour bubble bath every night! That’s right—the tub is where I make some headway in the catalogs, tech manuals, magazines, and assorted other print matter I accumulate. I fill the tub with deliciously hot bubbles (which are hampered by my combining them with skin softeners). A glass of wine, a stack of reading materials, post-it notes, pens, and extra paper…and I move in for at least an hour, reheating the water with fresh, steaming supplies from the tap.

Sometimes I even read books in the tub and get out all pruney and race to skitter under the covers, still damp, clutching the remainder of the book in my (mostly) dry hand. I know how hard it is for me to put a book down once started, so I try not to start one in the evening, which is my usual ‘tub time.’ Reading may be restful, but I need *some* actual sleep at night to survive the next day. (Even so, I amaze myself at how little I can get by on when absolutely necessary—but it’s not pretty.)

Lest you imagine that I am buried under knitting trauma, allow me to reassure you that not all is lost! In fact, I take regular breaks into other projects and some of them are going quite well.

The recent Winter Knitting Olympics encouraged me to persevere in the Vintage Sock pattern that I have had for two years. It has an inverted wineglass heel that looked so pretty that I ignored my reservations and ordered it. (Once again, I blame the Yarn Harlot. She made it look possible, if not exactly easy.) I read the pattern and did not understand it, so it sat in my yarn stash for two years. Sometimes, however, you simply have to start, and pray it will make sense as you work on it. These leaps of faith have (so far) about a 60/40 success rate for me, hence the hesitation.
Ivy

I knew I would not finish the socks in the 18 days allotted, but my goal wasn’t to complete them. It was to commence and persevere. I persevered through 35 (I did a few extra for training purposes) of the grape/ivy leaves, and I have actually started the toe-up cast-on but am now floundering at the ‘make a hole to put one of the small leaves in’ part. I need time on Ravelry to get past that conundrum. They will be heirloom socks, let me tell you! I’ll keep you posted.

While in the process of making all those leaves, I also investigated knitted toys. After collecting quite a few patterns and books, I selected some indigo-purple and some coordinating dark green left-over sock yarn to practice knitting a bunch of grapes. I ran out of the grape yarn before I made enough of them so the cluster is on the smallish size. Here it is displayed at last Sunday’s SnB with the requisite glass of wine and the next OTN sock pattern. <g> (They are supposed to be dead easy but I have already had to tink back one whole pattern repeat because I can’t count.)
Knitted Grapes

The deal with these toy patterns is that they are very anti-social. You have to pay attention to where you are in the pattern and every single row needs to be accounted for in order. Toys also need stuffing. I have carted around bags of fiber-fill fluff for years, using little of it, so when I needed it, of *course* I couldn’t find it! The basement got quite a bit more organized and cleaned in the process, so I can’t completely complain (much).

And now for the
Public Service Announcement:
Brother Dave owns a Prius and is also a master mechanic. These are his (tested) instructions on the issue with Toyota acceleration problems:

Following the Prius recall closely. I have 51000 miles on mine now. Today I tried a couple of things “just in case”. The power button is disabled if the car is moving. The work-around is to hold the shifter in neutral. The trans will disengage and then the car can be brought to a stop normally. I have tried this …on the way to work while cruising and under acceleration and it works.
The Power and Park switches do not operate while the car is in motion to protect the transmission and avoid a catastrophic accident if the trans was put in park while moving. When the car is at rest pushing either of those buttons places the trans in park. I’m curious as to why an “emergency” procedure has not been announced.

What if the Book of Psalms was written for the New Testament instead of the Old? With the compassion of Christ foremost, rather than the impatient, judgmental, selfish piety and brimstone harshness of the patriarchal precepts of God as seen through the eyes, the voices, the understanding of Man at that time?

Okay, I admit to a bit of a bias, here. I do not mean that all of the Psalms are like the book of Deuteronomy, with its harsh laws for a harsh land, but there are few that are totally without the whiny “why me? kill my enemy! vengeance!” in them. I do enjoy many of them for the songs they are so obviously written for—both the sorrow and grief, but mostly those celebrating the joy of life, love, and hope. My favorite is “make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands” because that includes the joyful shrieks of chortling babies, the dancing ‘woo-woofs’ of my puppies, and the contented sighs of loving, in addition to traditional music and rhythm.

I don’t know why this thought stream obsessed me at church when I ought to have been paying attention to the sermon. Sometimes it just be’s that way. My mind wanders off into a sermon digression and occasionally doesn’t return until the closing hymn. It’s times like that that I really wish I could knit in church. If I had sticks and string in my hands I would be more likely to really listen to the sermon, but non-knitters just don’t get that.

So… my mind wanders a bit. At least this time it was at least somewhat related to religion and church!

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