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Homeless? Life After a House Fire.

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Excerpt from Patience / Machinist book

Postby rj5156 » Thu Feb 16, 2017 11:26 am

This is a chapter from "A Little More Common Sense", scenes from my childhood from a totally different perspective.


Pics Dad included in the manuscript in this chapter.

Really cruddy photo of a photocopy. This is a very old picture and I'm having trouble orienting myself in it. Maybe Beep or Kg can help here? Suspect the original photo will clear it all up if I can find it. Think it is taken from the circle drive with the house behind us and to the left. Corn-crib to the right, just in front of the car.

The vehicle in the driveway coming toward us is crossing the bridge, coming toward the house. Original barn on the right, just out of the picture? Maybe? Bet it was taken when folks were coming over for a shooting afternoon? We didn't have that much company for anything else and most of the vehicles shown are parked in our overflow area?

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A rough sketch of the project.

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Link to larger copy of above image.

http://s1242.photobucket.com/user/rj515 ... u.jpg.html


JULY, 1978

Building A Bridge

Keeping our driveway usable was an outrageous problem. In springtime, the seasonal rains not only flooded the lane, but they also washed tons of expensive gravel downstream. This left a young canyon across the driveway that grew deeper after each rain until it reached bedrock.

Since the dry weather arrived, we had thrown rocks into the chasm until it was passable, but a single heavy rain had swept it all away. The washout was about 5 or 5 feet wide now, and over a foot deep, as I began to seriously consider the problem. IT would take more than even a heavily constructed wooden bridge to cope with these flash floods.

The engineer in me was determined to solve this. Out came my calculator. Forty three thousand square feet per acre, times 200 acres of drainage is a lot of area. A single inch of rain would put almost three quarters of a million cubic feet of water down our creek! Six million gallons! And it came down the creek at break neck speed over a period of about an hour. That's roughly the contents of 32 Olympic-size swimming pools.

No wonder the neighbors told tales of many homebuilt bridges here that had all washed away. The probable cost of a really big, solid masonry bridge loomed in my mind as utterly ridiculous. I began to understand why the farm had been so cheap to buy. Just how stupid had I been to get myself into this, I wondered?

I walked back upstream to where two branches merged to form our creek. The smaller one we'd filled with brush and tree limbs as we cut fire wood and logs for farm lumber. Most of it was full now, but this only slowed down the water. We needed a dam to shut off this smaller stream and thus reduce the amount of water downstream where the new bridge would be.

Within a matter of days, our neighbor had hired a bulldozer to grade his farm lanes, so we took advantage of the chance to have a dam built that corked the small stream. The small pond we created would provide extra water for livestock in dry years, eliminating the tiresome chore of carrying water in buckets.

The main stream, however, was still capable of raging over the lane with about two-thirds of its' original strength. Recent rains showed that the bridge must allow a stream about a foot deep and up to eight feet wide to pass. We knew from experience that it could be three or four times that big for short periods of heavy rains.

Our solution was decided when I discovered a pair of 30 inch diameter metal culverts at my favorite shopping center - the local junkyard. Some noisy work with a sledge hammer removed most of the worst dents. After trimming with an acetylene torch, we had a matched pair fourteen feet long. The next problem was how to keep them from washing away? Lots of concrete should do it.

They had to be carefully placed in the stream bed, so a horse was best for the job. Daisy complained about the noisy trip down the gravel lane, but did a perfect job of placing them in the washout that had stopped traffic. A couple weeks of spare time work got the stream bed straight and level, and concrete forms around the culverts.
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Re: Homeless? Life After a House Fire.

Postby rj5156 » Thu Feb 16, 2017 11:28 am

This is a chapter from "A Little More Common Sense", scenes from my childhood from a totally different perspective.


My note:
Connie did much of the labor pulling a slip- scoop to sculpt the stream bed, she was the slower and larger horse in the draft team, better suited to the job. This is back-breaking labor for the person running the scoop as the horse pulls it, and not entirely safe either. Kids led the horse and our three-way communication system between horse, slip-scoop operator and kid got lots of practice. We were ALL glad when that was done.



Much labor for all the family went into collecting large stones to throw in as we would pour concrete, to save money by reducing the amount of concrete required.

Pouring concrete is always something of a panic operation. Any mistakes will solidify into stone in a few hours. We had all the necessities on had though, lots of rocks, an armload of scrap iron, old wire and other junk we could dispose of in the wet cement, along with plenty of helpers to shovel concrete into the corners and then plug any leaks with old newspaper. It all went well, but the ready-mix driver got the last of what money we could afford to spend right at the moment.

We were now pretty broke, and we had a four foot high by fourteen foot wide wall of cement blocking the lane. We still had to build sloping approaches to the bridge before we could cross it with a vehicle. We parked the car and pickup in the pasture across the creek. It looked like we would be walking the last hundred yards to the house for some time to come. Not a good prospect at all. We were just beginning on this project.

Retaining walls for the approaches came next. With our bank account shot, we built concrete forms out of scrap lumber. We mixed our own concrete in a small hand mixer, a quarter-yard at a time, which occupied several weeks. The faithful junkyard supplied reinforcing steel, and pipes to use for railing posts. It only took a month of drudgery to have four retaining walls, arranged like a letter "H", extending from the central mass where the culverts were. All we had to do was fill in between them, and we could drive to the house again!

I knew or sandy soil would not do for filling. It soaked up water like a sponge and would become a huge mud pit, then freeze in winter to expand and break down the retaining walls. We needed stone for fill, massive amounts of it, and it was free for the taking at the stone mills near the town where I worked. I would simply haul some home each day as I came home from work.

The first pickup load was discouragingly small, compared to the amount we needed. Stone is HEAVY! Our heavy-duty pickup could haul about three tons a day. The roadbed was fourteen feet wide, and four feet of fill was needed at the creek, tapering off to nothing about sixty yards away.

My calculator said it would take over a hundred loads to fill that gaping hole! And then ANOTHER hundred loads on the OTHER side of the bridge! My heart sank, but I began to haul stone in earnest. Five evenings a week we unloaded chunks of limestone into the hole. On Saturdays, I splurged and bought three tons of fine crushed limestone at the quarry to fill in the cracks between pieces, then more chunks the next week. The weeks stretched into months.

When frost was in the air and leaves were beginning to fall, I was sure I'd hauled enough stone to build the pyramids all over again. I began to sympathize with the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, but the road still lacked a foot of being high enough to cross the bridge yet. We were getting real tired of carrying groceries that last hundred yards to the house each week, across the still impassable bridge. We were even more tired of hauling and laying stones. Fall rains weren't far away, and we were less than half done. A heavy rain could be disastrous, cutting around the unfinished bridge.

Redoubled efforts created a stone ramp that allowed us to begin fill on the second side. The weather was more threatening by the time we could FINALLY get the truck over the rough fill and to the house. It began to rain sporadically. It was time for serious efforts.
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Excerpt from Patience / Machinist book

Postby rj5156 » Thu Feb 16, 2017 11:30 am

This is a chapter from "A Little More Common Sense", scenes from my childhood from a totally different perspective.



With a ton of stone in the bed for traction, I tried using the four-wheel drive truck and its' snowplow to bulldoze dirt. We needed an embankment on the upstream side, and we need it fast, but the snowplow refused to dig in the hard dirt.

Undaunted, I persuaded the ancient tractor to start, and began to drag the farm disc cultivator 'round and 'round the creek bed above the bridge. A few trips loosened the dirt all over a half acre about three inches deep. The snowplow pushed the loose dirt easily, and I soon had satisfying mounds of dirt piled against the retaining walls.

A full weekend of this dizzying work created an earth dike four feet high and a hundred feet long, extending from the bridge in both directions to high ground. It was raining while I finished, and continued to rain for two weeks. The dike turned to soft mud and settled a lot.

Stone-hauling continued every evening in the icy fall rain. The dike leaked in places, keeping us busy plugging holes with chunks of stone, but the dike held. The half acre bowl-shaped depression wed dub on the upper side of the bridge was now a lake.

More stone raised the level of the dike and covered the mud to keep it from washing away if the water spilled over the top. The rain stopped, and the lake subsided. There was a foot deep pool in the lane on the unfinished house side, but it was passable with two feet of solid stone fill beneath.

Gradually, the stone-hauling raised the lane above water level. The lane was passable in the car now, and got better with every load. Winter came and all work halted. The pool was frozen solid, so we traveled in and out easily, although carefully on the ice.

With spring came the acid test for the new bridge. Spring rains were always heavier than fall rains, and lasted longer. The spring of 1970 was wetter than normal. Ordinary drizzles lasted for weeks, saturating the soil so every drop that fell ran racing down the steep hills to our creek.

In late March, four inches of rain fell in one afternoon, in a matter of two hours. When I drove in from work, water was level with the top of our dike, and two streams were pouring from the culverts. Water as trickling over the top in places.

I put on tall boots and went to check it out. There didn't seem to be nearly enough water coming out of the culverts, considering that they were submerged on the upper end. Some poking with a stick dislodged limbs and leaves that clogged the culverts, but there was still comparatively little flow through them.

Further prodding disclosed something else blocking the culverts. Water was beginning to run over the dike in a small stream and cutting a trench as it went.

There was no choice but to climb down into the frigid water. Some groping in the muddy yellow water found the problem; a small cedar tree had washed down the creek and lodged crossways in front of the culverts. Finding was one thing, removing was something else. The surging current held the tree against the concrete with tremendous force. I pulled hard with both hands and bent with my nose almost in the water to reach for a better grip when the tree dislodged upward. The other end was directly in front of a culvert, so the current grabbed it and tore it from my grip.

It turned and was sucked endwise into the near culvert, which in the process pulled me off balance to fall almost into the current. One foot went in front of the surging opening to catch myself, and was instantly swept into the culvert. I grabbed onto the bridge railing posts and pulled myself up and out of the water, safe and sound, but minus one boot.

Once I had clambered onto the bridge, the bare foot was more comfortable than the other one, which was soaking in a bootfull of icy creek water. Wet all over, I sat down to pull off the other boot and survey the damage. Water was roaring along happily through the culverts now. I noticed the cedar tree bobbing along a couple hundred yards downstream.

The water level had ebbed somewhat. It was no longer running over the dike, but I slogged over to the breach and kicked a couple big rocks in the new trench anyway to stop any chance of more damage. Surely, this rain was the worst test the bridge would ever see. The dike held. The roadbed was intact. It looked like we'd finally won. I sloshed my way to the house, to get dry and warm, not feeling too victorious.

You couldn't really win against nature, I thought. The best you could hope for was an armed truce. I felt the lack of ultimate victory and the relentlessness of weather and nature. Ten, twenty, or a hundred years from now, the creek would eat away at our bridge and eventually win again. But for now, we had our small victory. The bridge would serve us well for as long as we were likely to need it. That would have to be enough.
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Excerpt from Patience / Machinist book, my comments

Postby rj5156 » Thu Feb 16, 2017 11:32 am

My comments:


In the end we built one of those flipping fence sections over the creek to help hold debris back and let water past. These need maintenance of course. Clear them out when it quits raining and the water goes down or pay for it later. I have not been there in years now. May take a little field trip and see if the bridge is still there.

If it's been cared for with the respect it deserves, brush and debris has been kept from clogging it up, and occasional fill and tamping as needed where water WILL wear away around and under anything, it should be in fine shape to this day. Be interesting to see.

This was typical of my childhood. My folks bought a three story brick house when I was just old enough to remember, that's where the pictures of Beep and I with that toolbox were taken. They ripped up the floors and replaced huge joists as needed, then put new floors back down.

They dropped some of the really high ceilings. Repaired the ancient fireplace and laid in bookcases on either side of it. There was plumbing and brick work building a nice concrete patio with openings left for drainage. Tuck pointing to fix the old exterior, work on the garage, shovel work in the yard to fix issues with the septic system resulting from bad work from the original build.

Not sure how much help I actually was at that time, but I was given helpful things I could do and I FELT like I was helping;)

We moved to a home on a half-acre and built a chicken house and a shed, put in a garden and planted an orchard. I WAS a lot of help by this time. They sold that place to move to this area. We did extensive repair on the huge old barn, jacking it up and replacing sections of the huge old hand-hewn beams. Built that bridge. Beep and I spent a good part of our free time unloading the smaller rocks and we were involved at a sweat-inducing level in every project at this point.

We built a large shop, one concrete mixer load at a time pouring the floor after serious slip scoop work with a horse helping, to make a level spot to put it. Built on to the house, pouring yet more concrete, one mixer load at a time, laying block walls and going up from there.

We took that HUGE barn down and salvaged ALL the material, one sheet of roofing and one board at a time. We built a much nicer barn, nearly as big as the one we took down. We did have the concrete poured for that one, the new barn was a concrete basement with a wood building above and a tin roof on top.

Major improvement because we could drive to the top and stack hay instead of having to pitch it in the loft! We poured the stalls and finished it out ourselves of course, once the walls and foundation were poured.

When Dad was finally released he started work re-building the shop. Mom and I had been buying equipment and using cut pipes levered under it to roll it into the basement, planting fruit and cedar trees and generally busting our butts to get as much done as possible toward future plans.

We did have the concrete poured for the shop floor, an amazing amount of work since it required building a basement and filling that in to find purchase for a foundation on a steep slope. We re-shaped the whole driveway, put in a lot of quality time with a pick and shovel, poured steps and a long section of retaining walls and back filled everywhere, much of it with a shovel.

We built the fab shop building using scrounged materials for the most part, someplace I've got pictures of all that. We built a shed, terraced the yard into three large gardens. Built a sunroom on the end of the house, again having the concrete poured and doing all the rest ourselves. I worked part-time, went to school full-time and sweated and bled for everything we accomplished there, instead of sleeping.

When we did family projects, we really DID things! I found very little in common with most of my peers.

Either they didn't believe me or they were horrified. Honestly, I didn't try very hard to meet them halfway. I did fare better socially with the Amish children, we had a lot more in common. I was living in my own little world and loving it. It was for me, a magical childhood. I keep saying this because it is so true. There was NOTHING we could not do!
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Re: Homeless? Life After a House Fire.

Postby rj5156 » Thu Feb 16, 2017 12:44 pm

Had a hard time finding a picture of the slip scoop rig. The pic on the page linked below shows how it is hitched up.

http://amethystfarm.org/draft-horses/fa ... scoop.html

One of the kids would lead the horse, who kept an ear back for Dad's instructions and understood them full well. The kids kept the horse focused on the job and not the barn nearby;) Dad held the handles of the slip scoop, which requires a half-crouching crab walk as the horse pulls. Lifting the handles slants the blade, a fairly sharp edged affair on the scoop and pitches the cutting edge into the dirt. It WANTS to go right on over and muscling it DOWN as it goes is an astonishing amount of hard labor.

Once the scoop is filled or the hump is cut, the handles are forced down hard to lift the front out of the dirt. Ours had runners on the bottom. The handles had to be held down as the filled scoop was dragged to the dumping location. With some finesse and much help from the horse, the scoop is dragged onto the dirt pile or low spot, and the handles are lifted to dump the load of dirt. Takes a pretty long hitch to keep it from smacking the horse in the heels when it is flipped upside down.

Universally unpopular job with our horses. Dad didn't love it either, it's dangerous and grueling. Nobody brought their sweetest disposition to the slip-scoop, the horses laid their ears back at the sight of it and we sighed long-suffering sighs along with them.

It's not like plowing, discing or dragging logs, where you get it going and momentum helps keep it going. The blade hits rocks and hard spots and it's a jolting, stop-and-go piece of work for everyone involved.


Miserable work. We did a lot of it over the years. It gets the job done and we had a lot of places that ONLY a horse would fit. They stepped over things, worked around stuff and knew EXACTLY where their load was at all times.
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Fresh cranberry ferment

Postby rj5156 » Thu Feb 16, 2017 1:23 pm

Fresh cranberry ferment.
4 cups fresh cranberries
3 cinnamon sticks
6 slices fresh ginger
1 tablespoon whole cloves

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Using a half gallon jar for this. Put above in jar. Combined 1 tablespoon pink Himalayan salt, 1/2 teaspoon fermento powder (buttermilk powder works too), 4 cups water. Stirred and poured in jar.

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Put a bread bag in the jar. Added a teaspoon of salt in case it leaks. Poured water in bag to about half full. Used rubber spatula to tuck everything under the bag. Topped off water to just below jar rim.

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Put a ziplock over the top. Secured with rubber band around jar top. Set in a bowl. It will spew some first few days. I just wipe it out. We will start tasting after 2-3 days. Tuck it in the fridge when we like it. 7 days is suggested.

Recipe a modification of one given in "Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten & Christopher Shockey.

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(1 day later). Hard to see but we have bubbles! Lots of them too, though they are very small.

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Ginger Bug Starter

Postby rj5156 » Thu Feb 16, 2017 1:40 pm

Ginger Bug Starter.

1/2 cup each fresh grated ginger root, sugar, Kevita sparkling probiotic drink from Walmart. Fresh ginger tea on right. I like a little lemon in it.

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I use a coffee filter with a jar ring over it, to keep it clean.

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A day later: We have bubbles! Should pick up speed fast. I added 1/4 cup each of grated fresh ginger, sugar and filtered water just now. If I can remember to stir it 3-4 times a day it goes faster.

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It needs fed. Equal amounts fresh grated ginger and sugar each day. A tablespoon of each per day works for us. Once it is working and bubbling, 1/2 cup of ginger bug per quart of juice or tea to make carbonated drinks. We like it in apple cider! Just dump it in a generously sized container and put a towel over the top, set it in a warm spot, out of direct sunlight.

Let work at room temp until you like the taste. Pour in 2-liter plastic bottle. Cap tightly. Leave at room temp overnight.

Refrigerate next day. Squeeze bottle often. When it is hard, rock gently to distribute carbon dioxide bubbles, open carefully and drink! Burp pressure if not drinking fast enough to prevent over-pressure.

We are trying the Kevita as a starter to get it going faster. Updates as they happen!

Need to order the pressure relief valves for those soft drink syrup canisters I guess. I don't care if it is carbonated, just looking for an easy way to drink some probiotics that tastes good. Brian likes the carbonation so I bet he will take care of modifying the containers to suit. Pics of that as he does it, whenever he gets to it.
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Re: Homeless? Life After a House Fire.

Postby rj5156 » Thu Feb 16, 2017 1:47 pm

Trying out the baby pans. Yes, the burner is on. And it NEEDS to be that low even though the little redneck double-boiler is sitting on a wide-mouth mason jar ring on the burner.

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A brownie cake with cream cheese icing. Chocolate dipped berries were a little over the top but added a lot. It WAS valentine's day even if we forgot;)

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NOTE! It says right on the toy stainless pans NOT to use them on the stove or in the oven! I blew that off, bought them to use. Easy to cook thin stainless. Ya'll know how I know this;) VERY low heat was fine. No heat affected discoloration. Not recommending this, just sharing what we're doing.

I did check the pans with a very strong magnet. It was attracted some but did not stick. Pretty good grade of material in them. With proper heat levels they should last a lifetime.

This explains what happens when stainless is overheated if you really want to know:

http://www.totalmateria.com/page.aspxID ... kts&NM=239

The takeaway is that the structure and composition of the metal is changed and becomes vulnerable to corrosion.
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Re: Homeless? Life After a House Fire.

Postby rj5156 » Thu Feb 16, 2017 2:18 pm

Nova. The Origami Revolution. Not everyone sees the world the same way. Obviously this is cause for great celebration!!!

Once I see the world through another's perspective, my own can never again be quite the same. Naturally I LOVE the process. No matter what the process does. If I open my mind to the possibility of foreign perspectives it often rewards me by blooming in new ways, bearing good if different fruits, when I seek solutions to seemingly unrelated challenges, sometimes years later.

Just WOW! We were astonished and engaged. I may watch this one over and over and over.
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His and Hers. Mag Drills.

Postby rj5156 » Fri Feb 17, 2017 10:23 am

His and Hers. Mag drills.

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Brian is very sensitive to size issues. Fit is a big deal for both of us. It is at least as difficult for him to find things that are scaled to his size, he IS an order of magnitude bigger than anyone else I know, and always has been. He looks like a draft horse in a herd of ponies.

Here he's made me an extension for my chuck key. He's working on an extension for the handle too. He enjoys doing it so much that I just say "thank you".

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All set up at MY comfy work height.

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Brian sure knows how to spoil this girl. It's always been hard for me to accept help. I have learned over the years to thank Brian prettily for this kind of thing. I know how much it means to me when there is some little thing I can actually do for him. We're both pretty independent and self-sufficient but marriage is about doing nice things for each other at its' best - and we do want the best of it.

Feeling loved and cherished:) I hope you all get regular doses of this, in whatever form matters most to YOU!
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