Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Breaking the Paradigm

Last weekend saw me conclude a job that breaks my lifelong rule: "No Tool, No Job". Yes, for the first time in kiloyonks I did a job without buying any tools.

I have spent the best part of two years staring at the inevitable results of doing elementary geometry in Mr Brain1 sitting on my driveway. I have spent 11 years moving four really old fenceposts that I reclaimed during a rare burst of energy when I refenced the entire property in '95. Said fenceposts had been preserved with something (I know not what) that was much more efficient than the carpenter ant & termite attractant they use today,and as a result had spent 30-odd years in the ground with no damage whatsoever. I wanted to use them for a deck I've been planning for years, but realistically, that deck is almost certainly never going to materialise and two weeks ago I just got fed up and decided to use them as scenic ties for a small landscaping project near the swimming pool.

Basically, I was going to turn a rather ratty sloped area into a nice tiered effect, which would then allow Mrs Stevie to relocate some of the Hostas that are in the process of reenacting the Triffid victory over Earth in our front garden. Ratty grassless area reclaimed and hidden, collection of fence posts arranged to good use, pile of dirt in the driveway severely diminished in size. A win-win-win situation.

Accordingly I collected some 2 foot long bits of rebar I had bought a year ago for a similar abandonned project, 4 lanscaping spikes purchased with the rebar, four fenceposts, Mr Chopsaw, Mr Hammerdrill, Messers Spade Bits, Gerald the Crowbar and Mr Powerwasher and got to work. Pulling eightpenny nails out of wood they'd sat in for forty years or so was interesting in the Chinese sense, but the posts cleaned up nice. A quick bit of visualising inside the unreliable chambers or Mr Brain and we were off.

I soon discovered that my elbow hadn't healed properly2 and that trying to do the job without Mr Lump Hammer (loaned to a friend some months ago along with Mr .22 Calibre Nail Gun) was going to be tedious. You see, the project called for the construction of three levels of interlocked ties/posts. The upper courses would be nailed to the lower ones with the landscaping spikes, but the lowest courses would need to be anchored in some way.

The way I chose to approach this was to use a two-foot length of ½ inch rebar as a spike. I drilled a ½ inch hole in one end of the first post once it was in position and drove the spike through the hole and into the ground. It worked rather well. Due to the incline, the other end of the post was buried in the ground and didn't in my judgement require a spike to stabilize it. Time will tell.

Of course, several sawn-off posts had to be laid in the ground and required spiking, and a good few of them would be over buried bricks, tree roots and other impediments to urban landscaping. Once the decision to start driving a rebar spike was taken, it couldn't be revoked, resulting in recourse to Mr Hacksaw on two swear-word laden occasions. The first one may have been the result of my ingenious method of ridding myself of a concrete and chainlink fence, demolished by idiots and that I couldn't persuade the town to take3. The second was a bloody Sumac root. Well, driving the rebar and landscaping spikes proved so tedious I broke off work and tried to locate the whereabouts of my lump hammer. I am still awaiting a call back on that as I type. Fortunately, Mike the Shaman had inhereted a rather nice lump hammer and he foolishly offered it to me when he heard my moans of pain the following monday and demanded the full story. It was therefore fully enhammered that I strode forth last Saturday.

Into the rain.

So Plan "B" was immediately put into effect and La Famile Stevie decamped to IHOP for breakfast. On the way home I bought two more lengths of rebar and four more spikes "for my peace of mind".

Sunday dawned relatively dry and so I set to with a will and managed to get all the posts spiked in place and a good quantity of soil relocated from the front drive to the Tiers of Niftyness.

I ran out of wood, of course. Fortunately I still had the three-foot offcuts from the monkey-bar extension to Fort Stevieling lying around eating crisps and so I was able to press-gang them into service. I was even able to get around a short (about a foot and a half) tie that lay right over a really really thick tree root by using a scavanged angle bracket to attach the short tie to the longer one it abutted. It all worked rather well.

1: There are not nine cubic feet in a cubic yard, it turns out
2: Injured during The Flatpack Gazebo of Death Fiasco
3: What I like to call the "Bury It Under The Swimming Pool" plan

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