Archive for February, 2014

August-September 2013

February 28, 2014

After making my way back from my pilgrimage to Iowa, I decided it was time to convert my piles of interlocking bricks into a nice driveway. So I called in the dirt movers again to grade the driveway properly for drainage and level parking. I also had acquired some free fill from a neighbor building a house, which went into the low spot in the back of the yard where some water was still pooling when big rain or Spring thaw happened. I was on a fairly tight time-line, since I wanted to have the job done before we left for our big trip to Peru on Sept 16.


After the grading, landscaping fabric was laid down a truckload of sand dropped onto it and carefully spread and graded. This was the base for laying the interlocking bricks. By my calculations with the number of bricks in hand I could construct a driveway from garage front to street which was 14 ft wide. So I set about placing the bricks and driving them firmly in place with a 2 lb hammer and a wooden block to keep from cracking bricks. Started at the garage entrance and began to work my way toward the street. I used a brick pattern which although more complex, claims to be better at weight distribution and prevention of surface distortion/disturbance of the bricks. You did have to be thinking all the time to make sure you were following the pattern. When I had to make a bend in the driveway to finish perpendicular(or nearly so) to the street, there was a lot of creativity in cutting and fitting bricks to make the transition. This was a time and muscle/back intensive job, taking a couple weeks to accomplish and drawing lots of onlookers and comments.

In order to keep the bricks from “walking” outward with vehicle movement on the the surface, I decided to install a mini-retaining wall on the edges. I happened to have a pile of slightly damaged cement blocks from the primary construction of the house still setting back by my tool shed. So hauled them up with my lawn tractor and trailer and dug them down around the edges so the tops were just flush with bricks. The strategy then was to fill the cores and the tops of the blocks with vibrated concrete, giving a strong border extending 8 inches below brick tops. I also had enough bricks and blocks to install a brick walkway from edge of driveway to edge of breezeway.

Concrete work continued apace and before I knew it it was approaching travel time again, this time our adventure to Peru. Elena arrived from Newfoundland, had a day of recovery and then we did a lightning trip across the border to do some Bank business, allowing her to have an interac card to get Yankee dollars at ATMs when we were traveling. The driveway brick and retaining edge work was all complete cleanly before the run up to travel. Then the US excursion morning before flight to Peru, that evening we drove to Toronto, staying in an airport hotel, leaving the car in long-term parking and taking a shuttle to the airport. Just over 2 weeks of incredible adventure in Peru, Lima, Macchu Picchu, Cusco, Lake Titicaca, Arequipa and home.

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June-August 2013

February 25, 2014

There wasn’t much left of June by the time I put Elena on the plane back to Newfoundland, and it took a few days before I got back into my rhythm of doing “stuff”. Among first things to get at was finish of the window trim and stain and varnish of the same in the workshop area and the window framing in the garage.


I also set about installing aluminum fascia in the exterior door frames, on the beams and posts of the breezeway and to instal the final set of exterior trim on door frames and the windows in the screen porch. When I got the original Hardie Board cement board trim I could get factory painted battens only if I bought a whole pallet of the same. Unfortunately I needed more than a whole pallet, and so the remainder to finish the trim was just primed and I had to paint it. These jobs were at the top my agenda beginning in late June.

Another project being done in parallel was the final finishing of a table I had acquired at an auction sale in Iowa in 2007. I had stripped the old finish when staying to take care of my mother while my sis and her husband flew off for their daughter’s wedding in Hawaii. Now I finally got round to doing the oil rubbed finish to replace the old varnish which I had removed. It is a lovely simple drop-leaf table made of cherry with three additional leaves that can be inserted to give a length to seat a substantial gathering.

While I was chugging away at these things I had communications from my sis in Iowa that my Mom was having some health issues and was in hospital for a few days to deal with a bout of aspiration pneumonia. After a bit of back and forth and deciding it was time for a visit I scheduled my trip to see Gladys and Paul and my Mom, but also to catch the annual Hoekman family reunuion another day’s drive west from there in Monroe SD. By the time I got to Iowa my Mom was back in the Cresco Senior’s home and again pretty chipper. As usual we played Scrabble. It is pretty sad, my siblings and I brag when we manage to beat our 95 year-old mother at Scrabble; usually she whips us 🙂

So I had a little more than a week away from duties to visit family and trek across the midwest in the States. I must comment that the family reunion, while still a significant gathering is a shadow of its former size. The older generation is disappearing, and the younger generations are much more widely scattered and less connected to the old center of family history.

January through April 2013

February 21, 2014

January 9 I flew back from Newfoundland and was back into at least some house finishing activities. Elena and I decided we were to make trip to Peru in the Fall to see Macchu Picchu and other bucket list sites in that interesting country. So lots of internet arranging for the trip. Elena’s friend from Peru told us it was easy and much cheaper to arrange your own tour which we/I set out to do. Got off to a shaky start with a malfunction of an internet reservation site that resulted in two extra plane reservations that told me the reservation had failed before making one on a different site, that told me I had been successful. That took a lot of “sturm and drang” and phone calls plus a few weeks before the charges were removed from credit card 😦

I was also rehearsing for a concert with LPM scheduled near end of February, and my ENT had scheduled me for surgery February 21 to “ream and clean” my sinuses of nasal polyps. These to those who don’t suffer are a consequence of allergies and this was my second surgery, the first happening nearly 30 years earlier. My family doc had me get a head cat scan to see the status of my sinuses before my referral to the ENT. When it came back and he was showing it to me, his comment was: How do you breathe?

Anyway I was also slogging away at getting trim installed, stained and varnished in the workshop. Just to keep life interesting Elena’s cousins in Brooklyn NY were to celebrate the wife’s 90th birthday in Mid March, and had recently celebrated the husband’s 97th. Elena was going to fly out, so to join the celebration I planned to drive to NYC on February 14, and made reservations on Airbnb at a place near the celebration site.

Things went well with the trim work, and the choir rehearsals were also good, the unfortunate thing being that my surgery was on Feb 21 and the concert on the 23rd. I was hoping my post-op condition would let me sing, but discretion being the better part of valor, the continued oozing of my surgery made me sit that one out.

However by the time I had to depart for NYC my sinuses were much happier, and I set out for Brooklyn at the crack of dawn with a few snow flurries happening. By the time I got to London, it had turned into much more threatening conditions, very slick roads and an 18 wheeler had jackknifed across the oncoming side of the 401 about 30 km up the road and pretty much stopped traffic from both directions. I continued on at a safer snails pace and finally drove out of the nasty roads as I crossed the border into the US at Hamilton. Then made very good travel time getting to my accommodations only a couple hours later than I had anticipated. A good time was had by all, a few days visiting with family and the big birthday party. Then me back to Newbury and Elena to St. John’s and her classes.

Not long after getting back to Newbury it was time to seed the grass in the newly landscaped terrain around the house. I had made a trip to the US in Michigan to get moulding trim and a vanity and toilet for the bathroom in workshop as well as grass seed.

One of the first outside jobs with Spring weather was to prepare the soil and spread grass seed. I borrowed a harrow from my friend Ron up the street and and dragged it around with my lawn tractor to loosen up the surface a bit before applying the seed I brought back from Michigan.


After missing the February LPM Concert because of my sinus surgery, I did succeed in singing the Gilbert and Sullivan fundraiser concert in April, as well as the Voiceprints Spring Concert. Elena was completing her final term of teaching before retiring, and then flew out to Ontario. After a few days of recovery we loaded up into the VW camper and headed across the border to spend May and early June in Sarasota. When we crossed the border at Sombra-Marine City for some reason the US customs decided we were suspicious, and did a complete dis-assembly of everything in the van. After more than an hour of inquisition we were finally on our way. We had a brief stop in Louisville to visit my sister Trish and her husband Del, and then onward to Sarasota. A bit more than a month enjoying sun and warm, Elena running every day and me riding my bike for at least 20 km pretty much every day. Then in early June back north up the Atlantic coast via Jacksonville and then up through Savannah and a stop in Greenville, SC with Elena’s cousin. From there back meandering across the south back to Ohio and back up to cross the border at Detroit-Windsor and home to Newbury. Then shortly Elena was back to Newfoundland and I was back to work on house stuff.

October-November 2012

February 7, 2014

After bringing the VW van back to Ontario, I had lots of stuff to do on the house with a tight timeline since I was going to be heading back to Newfoundland for the Christmas holidays. My initial activities were split between finishing up the trim on window frames in the main part of the house, and staining and varnishing them. I then alternated to fabricating more patio blocks to surface the area between screen porch platform and the workshop wall.

The first task in preparation for the patio blocks was to cut some of the interlocking bricks down the middle with my wet diamond saw. Putting them together on the boundary gave me a nice straight edge for the transition to the patio blocks. I also was working at installing the plywood frames for the windows in the workshop/garage.

On my agenda was getting the landscaping done with the removal of what Elena called “Hoekman Mountain” in the back yard to make the topsoil grading around the house. This included filling the low spot in the back corner which periodically became “Lake Hoekman”. After discussion with my dirt moving contractor and measurement of the actual grade differences around the lot, and initial plan to install a drainage tile, was replaced with production of a drainage swale which would lead the precipitation runoff to the storm drain at the front of my property.

One of the first tasks when the earth moving equipment arrived was to move the interlocking paving bricks which I had acquired earlier for the driveway, to a location nearer the driveway. These were “walk-on” supplies, A guy drove by one day and asked if I was interested in paving bricks, and I replied if they match the house and the price is right. So he brought me a couple samples, and after a bit of dickering, for $500 I had them and he delivered them to me on pallets.


Then it was on to the big job, distributing the stockpiled topsoil which was in two piles on the south side of the house and garage/workshop. There were two machine at it, and mini digger and a skid steerer. The following gallery shows the progress as they moved dirt to taper the landscape from the house out into the back yard. Some was moved around to the front yard to even out the landscape there tapering to the driveway. The rest went into evening out the low spot in the back corner referred to by some as Lake Hoekman, when there was big rain or big snow melt.

The next day they finished the job and created the drainage swale to take the water away from the low spot in the back to the storm sewer drain in front of the garage. After everything had been leveled out and some rain fallen, I found another bit of archeology, the broken bowl of a clay pipe which I believe was a 19th century artefact.

When this was finished, and I had sung another years version of Messiah with London Pro Musica and Symphony London, it was off to Newfoundland for the holidays on December 7.