Archive | October 2019

Driveway done

Long term readers, thanks for sticking with me.  I realize I left you all with a cliff hanger, did I get the driveway done?  Long story short, Yes!

Long story long…

The day was gorgeous, not too hot and not too cold.  Kids actually didn’t have school (why?  made up MN holiday I always forget about) so while they were potentially underfoot I didn’t have to lose time bringing them to and from school.  The machine was scheduled for 11am delivery (because I thought they had school…) and that gave me plenty of morning time to get kids full of attention because my plan was to ignore them for the next few hours as I used small earthmoving equipment.  They were issued lunch instructions and told not to paint anything or kill each other and I took possession of the bobcat at 11:15 am.


look dad, hearing protection.  

The lesson on how to use it was about 6 seconds long but did include the one important detail about how to disengage the bucket so it acted as a ‘float’ and flattened things for the smooth top look.  I took my place at the controls and set to work,  I zipped up and down and scooped and dumped and smoothed and it was pretty simple after you got the hang of it.  I can do two things with two hands at the same time and I felt pretty confident after the first 20min.


progress shot, more than 20 min, probably a few hours work.

It was a ride on machine, not a sit in, so I had to use my good balance skills as I went up and down.  I didn’t actually fall off ever, but, it was close a few times.  It does tend to lurch suddenly so my hip bones were not pleased with the bashing they took but no permanent damage.  I learned that regardless of how fun it is to spin in a circle, it isn’t very kind to the grass so hopefully my lawn forgives me.


Vacation Mom visited for a photo op

By 2pm I had actually done the majority of the spreading of the rock we had.  On the good side, I was pretty quick.  On the bad side, the job wasn’t done….  Vacation mom and Lars both encouraged me to just order more rock asap.  Fortunately, I had done my homework and had gathered many options in the research phase so I knew who I could call for same-day delivery of the same product.  We just *can’t* mix our gravels!  During my break, as we waited an hour for another 5 yards, I moved the remainder of our free mulch pile to an out of the way place (that I’m sure will be the most needed place in the near future somehow) and finished the last crumbles I had.

New gravel delivered I went back to work.  I was feeling the time crunch because I did have kid activities that evening and the dark was coming.  I was also feeling what I can only describe as riding a small roller coaster – a jerky one at the local carnival, not a smooth machine at a theme park – for 5 hours.  There were moments of adrenaline as I thought I was tipping the thing but mostly just random smashing and constant jittering to shake my bones.


much more full, better now

I can see how a mech suit would be addicting, the power to lift or dig or spin or carry a big chunk so easily is pretty empowering.  I was strong and fast and unlimited by my strength – only my dexterity on the controls.  An unexpected body part that hurt; my thumbs – from moving on the control stick all day.  I got all the gravel in place but it was not perfect before it got too hard to see.

It was a 24h rental so I had until 11am to finish up.  The next day, fresh and ready, I did all the final grooming and it looked really real.  Sure there are still high and low spots but I’m cautiously optimistic.


look how smooooooth.  yes, it is supposed to slope, that is for drainage.

When the guys came to collect the machine he complimented the job.  I demurred, said I was not going to quit my day job… he really surprised me with his reply (the real compliment) “maybe side work?”  For a first effort, I’m pleased.  I also gained a ton of confidence and I will not hesitate to rent one again for similar jobs.  It was a testament to the experience of my friends who gave lots of advice and youtube with its many many videos.  The one frustrating thing in my research was lack of hard number so here are my real numbers if you came here looking;

In the Twin Cities area of MN USA it cost me apx $700 to diy a 200 square foot area 4-6in deep.  I believe the reason I needed more than 18 tons (original order) was because my area was deeper than the standard 4in I used to order so I have a more sturdy driveway but needed more fill.

  • trap rock class 5 ‘dresser’ (the name of the quarry).  I got the first 18 tons from the quarry directly.  The per-ton price was $13 SIGNIFICANTLY lower than any more local source because they add overhead etc.  Worth the $150 delivery to pay less per ton for the larger load.  The total bill for the first load that was 17 tons (full truck) was $280. *I was crossing fingers that I overestimated when I knew I needed 18 tons and only 17 arrived*
  • Rental for the machine for 24h; $300 <- includes tax and delivery/pickup.
  • Second 5 yards from local nursery; $252.  They charged $37 per yard and only $50 to deliver so you can see why they were not my first choice but they were able to deliver in an hour so that was worth it.

I am not the right person to ask how-to on this, youtube and experienced friends are a way better source.  I can give you confidence!  I (soccer mom of middle age) did it, so can you!  It was not that hard, you can fix most things anyway, and other than needing balance you more or less just need the patience to do it.  It was like playing with a giant sandbox toy or frosting a larger than life cake.  The ability to do this project is in your reach.



Hi there – it has been a bit.

I’m sure you can imagine (if you imagine me any other time than the 3 minutes you are reading) that I’ve been doing all the things that make the world go around here.  Driving to and fro, trying my best to remember what day it is to remember where what child is going where.  They tease parents on tv shows when they drop off a kid with a binder, but seriously children are actually just a collection of if-then statements with ever-changing variables.

I have been chipping away at my project list as well as prepping for a fairly large Halloween party.  They are related in a way, I was doing projects but then put an event on the calendar where people will see that I don’t have finished window treatments or any pictures on the wall after a YEAR and that puts me in gear.  There is plenty to do still but a few things will be off the list.

Other years I had tons of kids in Halloween shirt posts.  They are still wearing them, but, I have been missing the photo ops.  I did, however, get all my favorite shirts of the past that they have outgrown and made them into throw pillows.  Let me tell you, there are way easier ways to make pillows, like using normal shape fabric not a 50x washed tshirt size 3T….  I’ve made them different ways over the years, this year I cut the cool part of the shirt and appliqued it onto a regular piece of fabric and then made a pillowcase like normal.  img_2653

The kids have chosen their costumes and I’m in process on a Parrot, a Devil, and a Greek Goddess.  Can you guess who is who?  I would say I am pretty close to done on 2:3 but still have finishing touches to go.  I waited too long and now I have to make something I could have purchased but now delivery is after Halloween.  I’ve learned to look carefully at the delivery dates, hard lesson but one can not make the shipping faster.

I went down the Pinterest rabbit hole for Halloween party ideas.  We invited kids from each class and their parents/siblings so I have no idea who is coming from that group but we will probably have a crowd.  We are doing a more adult party after and I have a better idea of who is coming to that since I did the invite online and people do RSVP so it puts the event on the calender.  I think it will be a good bunch and hopefully, we have enough food/room/parking.

Speaking of parking… one of my odder longer-term projects is coming together.  I am expanding our driveway by 5 feet on one side, and, adding 2 generous parking spots so we have the possibility of 7 people parked in the driveway and less chance of running off the driveway when it is snowy.  This project took a while, had a few setbacks, taught me a ton about pavement and class 5 and the different types of class 5 and I had the rock delivered on Tuesday and tomorrow I get the machine to help move the class 5 rock into the spot that has been cleared.  I rented the machine for 24h so hopefully, I get this job done in a few and I can use the machine to do a few other jobs while it is here.  Who knew being a stay at home mom would translate into being a minor construction contractor?

The project bop is at a frantic level because I keep switching to what I can do best at the time so not too many things are in a *complete* status yet however the next few days should be good for finishing up stuff and putting away the tools etc so I can just enjoy the done-ness for a moment before party prep and Halloween events next week take over.

Wish me luck with my excavating equipment tomorrow, I hope to have pictures and success and not just a day full of what not to do.

The TownHouse story


After!  After much work in only 10 days it looks great.

September ended with as much busy and crazy as it started.

As I mentioned we did not renew our tenants lease.  We expected some cleanup and we expected to have it rented for Nov 1, maybe with an early move-in mid-October.  I’m very glad I did not procrastinate because the day she was moving out I was there with the clipboard writing the to-do list.  Luckily I got a painter to start the next week and flooring scheduled for the following Tuesday and in the week and a day from her handing over the keys I;

  • replaced the dishwasher <- ended up doing this DIY with the help of vacation mom.  Together we have more courage and actually, we work well together.  We both laughed when one of us got sprayed in the face because we turned ON the water that was apparently already off…  We notice the thing the other doesn’t and it works out well. Only took 2 trips to the store to get the right part.
  • replaced the doorbell – how it broke nobody knows… Glad I had experience with installing my Ring earlier this season so I knew how absolutely simple a device it really is.  img_2486
  • I found a great light fixture with VacationMom at the re-home store and then had to fight with it for over an hour to get modified to fit the space. (it had a too long downrod) and as is common I’m finding with second hand, it didn’t quite have every bit and part needed for an install.  I got creative and a little Frankenstein and 3 trips to the store and finally it is up and looks great.  The old one is now in my garage because it really was not bad, it was just dated, and is now in my list of projects for future garden decoration.


    bever.  only answer.  Look at the difference in old (top) and new (bottom) paint, looks so fresh and clean and bright!

  • Found a perfect match to the door that was eaten by a beaver (only logical explanation), ordered it, bird-dogged it through the manufacturing system and actually got it 5 days post order instead of the 2 weeks they estimated.  Asking nicely does work!  I also figured out how to chisel out the hinges to match and now you can’t even tell what door is new.


    prehung door… well, it got me 50% of the way to hang it, chisel got me the other half

  • Replaced all the doorknobs/locks – because that is always what you do.  I can change a doorknob and deadbolt in under 15 min, faster if the packaging is already open.
  • Picked paint and picked it up.  This is fairly minor overall but it was harrowing because I had to go to my least favorite paint place and even though I gave myself 40min to get this done I was still nearly late to pick up the kids.
  • revarnished all the windowsills – a skill I picked up from fixing our old house last year.  I’m very glad to have painted wood in this house.
  • Picked carpet!  easiest part but I’m mentioning it because I am proud I talked the sales guy down $500 on the price.  The install guys were really nice and also fast, the entire place was done by 4pm.
  • Purchased and installed roller shades.  Again, something that is easier than I expected but also a bit of a pain.
  • Replaced the patio door handle.  These are not standard by the way, took 2 trips to find the right one even with detailed measurements and pictures.  Once I had it, it was a fast job, probably because of all my deadbolt training over the years.
  • Installed a blind on the front window.  Easy once you figure out the clippies and what way goes up.
  • Installed a shower head because a new one was faster than cleaning the old one
  • Last but not least, I scrubbed and scrubbed.  Every door, every switch, the tub was tragic but now much less so, counters, floors, fridge…  She actually left it ‘ok’ but I wanted it to look good.  There was less that 1 trash can full of stuff to put out and a desk was left behind but the new family seems ok to keep it.

That is a long list and I got that done around kid duties, Homecoming week, and I even managed a workout and my own house didn’t devolve into chaos for lack of attention.  The hard work paid off though because upon listing we got a plethora of applicants and my top pick looked at it on Sept 27th and called me that night to take it.  It was a frantic rush at the end because they ended up arriving a day before I expected but I had been trying to be done early anyway so the last hour was frantic but enough and all weekend it felt great to have it off my plate.  When I got rent on Oct 1 with no issues or delays or stories or anything it was better than my birthday!  We didn’t get any rent for September so I’m double happy to see the cash flow after the spending to rehab in the month.

The rental home experience is probably different for everyone, I’ve gotten a ton of hands-on experience as well as a network of professionals I can call on.  The plumbing and electrical I’m doing is more because there is a lack of professionals, but, it also isn’t as hard as it seems if you go step by step and have a pocket computer at hand to look up all the things.  We have been truly lucky with tenants, even the ‘worst’ one was not all that bad.  I tell myself that she honestly saved some sanity because the paint and carpet should have been done a year ago but I was mid move then and had zero energy for the project and she didn’t care about paint or carpet (should have been a sign!) but she did pay rent 13 of 14 months and that counts for a lot.

This week the kids had off Monday so we were lazy around the house and yesterday I got to all the things that had been on hold during the project.  Today I burned nearly the whole day on computer things but October bills are paid, odd things are handled and/or asked about and I’m moving on to the next big set of projects – garden shed and driveway expansion.  Both are started and both are stalled but now both are going to get some special attention and I hope to have progress on them soon.