Monday, December 26, 2011

Camellias and azaleas

Thank you to Mr Blankenship for giving us four trailers overflowing with
camellias, azaleas, palms, and ornamental grasses. We've planted over
100 plants in the last few weeks. As I stepped back to admire the
beauty, I put my hands on my hips (to support a tired back), and
smiled. In the process, we also moved a few errant piles of building
supplies, pushing back the remnants of construction, further
beautifying the building site.

Here's a "masterpiece" camellia in bloom

Hammer in hand

Young helpers drive in the 8-penny nails.

The first truss is up

Granddad got the first truss up all by himself. He is a wizard with
levers and pulleys.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Four boys and an oak tree. See little brother in the swing background

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A big box

The shed gets plywood walls. Boys help Granddad hammer in the 8-penny

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Front drive taking shape

Those granite walls are springing up everywhere, giving shape to the
front drive and entrance to the house. Our favorite nursery man is
closing down his operation and has offered us the opportunity to have
any plants we want at no charge! We're disappointed that he's getting
out of the business, but delighted at his generosity.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wall framing from a distance

We're not using post and beam construction on this one, but it will be
sheathed with vertical shiplap to match the exterior of the house.

Framing the shed

Walls are going up on the shed at the west end of the house. The work
crew takes a break to smile and scowl at the camera.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Parties in the back yard

The back yard is spacious, ideal for gathering and feasting.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Building trusses

Manufacturing trusses for the shed. This is the last of twelve (see
the stack in the background?). Ready to start framing.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


The outdoor shower is operational, and it is pleasant to use even
during our first cold snap.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Clearing and stonewalling

The almost one-year old keeps Mom company on a cool fall morning.
Still working on clearing and building those reclaimed granite walls
around the drive area.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Working with Granddad

The best part of building a house with three generations is working
with Granddad, especially one that inspires boys to learn, to
experiment, to fail, to persevere, and to succeed.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Commemorating the slab

We each imprinted our initials and handprints into the hardening cement.

Moving cement

Getting the cement in the right places. The "outhouse" in the
background houses the hot water heater which will move into a corner
of the new shed.

Workshop slab

Pouring the slab for a workshop on the west end of the house. We miss
Mr. Jones, our concrete man who took good care of us during each stage
of our building project. He introduced us to all the subs worth
knowing and made regular visits to the building site to ensure that we
were doing quality work. We tried our best without him today,
remembering to follow the good example that he provided.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Still working on the front entrance

We've collected granite remnants for weeks now and are making steady
progress on the front entrance drive and walk. Notice the low-slung,
dry-stack wall that extends along the driveway, separating the drive
from a flower bed. The wall curves along the boxwood hedge, pointing
the way to the front walk.

Autumn Aloes

Sun streams through the bright orange aloe blossoms on a clear, fall
morning. This is the reward for a long, hot summer.

Mosaic step complete

Welcome! Can you make out the pebble toes?

Mosaic elephant

Why an elephant? Remember that our home is a Florida Cracker African
Bush Camp. And since Daddy does research on these mega-herbivores in
South Africa, it makes sense to have the grand beast stand guard over
our coming and going.

Beginning the front step

An elephant taking shape. Tiling prep for a mosaic on the front step.
We're using quarry tile graded for exterior use to withstand the

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Outdoor shower framed in

The hardiboard framing is complete. The boards were stained with the
same blue grey we used on the house (Benjamin Moore "Stonehedge"
exterior oil-based solid stain). The red trim is painted with the same
color used on the exterior doors (Benjamin Moore "Georgian Brick"
exterior enamel). Pressure treated trim pieces for the exposed edges
are still to be fabricated. Battery-operated LED glass bulbs made for
exterior use sit on top of the galvanized framing poles. Our plumber
is coming later this week to install and connect everything up.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Top soil

Spreading top soil in the new flower beds, ready for the boxwood hedge
to go in after Mom roto-tills the area.

Outdoor shower walls going up

We're using hardiboard siding to make a louvered privacy screen for
the outdoor shower. Left-over roofing screws hold the siding to
galvanized fence posts.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rock art

Big brother designs rock pillars as art. What is little brother doing
with that hammer in his hand and that gleam in his eye?

Rock quarry

Chiseling stones in the rock quarry, preparing pieces for edging walls
and paths. Notice the new curving boxwood hedge designed to create a
driveway with pedestrian entryway into the front yard. When your land
is a building site, cars and trucks drive all over the place, making a
muddy, sandy mess. Transforming the building site into a home requires
a bit of landscaping to manage the movement of people and their

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Screen door reinforcement

The screen door gets another layer of protection: a sheet of stainless
steel mesh at child level.

Stone paths

A stone path created with the discarded granite connecting two parts
of the back yard. Shiny-side-down makes it safely traversable when wet.


The kitchen island gets brackets, a precaution to ensure that the
weighty stone stays in place.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Granite harvesting

Sourcing granite remnants from the local landfill to create
"flagstone" paths around the property.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Our neighbor lend his big toy to help make a circle drive. This is the
life for young men who get to ride shotgun on any machinery that comes
within range of the house.

Construction for the play loft

Boys and Granddad work on a table to hold model trains in the play
loft. Together they developed plans and sketched out a design. We all
admire each stage of progress and eagerly await the final results.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Secret weapon

Granddad Kiker is our homeschooling secret weapon. He talks with boys
about math and science, engineering and technology with interesting,
impossible-to-forget simplicity.

Flood lights

See the flood lights in the background...or are you distracted by the
beauties in the foreground? Electricians have been finishing off the
exterior lighting.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Finishing the kitchen island

At long last, we fit a piece of maple-laminated plywood to the back of
the kitchen island. It's ready to be trimmed out.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Low-voltage lighting

So that friends don't stumble through the darkness, we're installing
low-voltage lights to create a path from the house to the fire pit out

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Light to the fire pit

Gunter wires up the telephone pole designed to light up the fire pit
for cooking.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tiling progress

Helpers everywhere! Despite excess hands on deck, progress continues....

Tiling begins

Remy leaves his assistants working on the outdoor shower while he
mixes more thinset. They carefully line up each tile on the blue chalk
line, check level, and insert spacers. The niños appear as if they
know what they're doing.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rerouting plumbing

A slight change in plans means that plumbing need to be shifted under
the concrete of the outdoor shower. The tile installer masquerades as
a plumber, but he is given away when he uses tiling tools to cut the

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The roof beckons

He was missing the roof, so he scrambled up to install a drier vent
for the addition.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Granddad Kiker on the job

Granddad and small helper tackle the reduction of screen doors to make
them swing under the new gutters.

Remy is back!

Remy has returned to bless our home with his skill, artistry and good
cheer. Here he begins framing the outdoor shower.

Trench diggers

Getting water and electricity to the fire pit includes digging a
trench for conduit from the house out to the site, a fair stretch.
Sounds like a perfect boy project to build muscle and determination.
It was tough, but the 10 and 8-year olds persevered (with a little
help from Mom).

Breakfast theater

The 3-year old positions himself at the window to watch activity on
site. "What are they doing with that machine?" he queries.


We gathered around the downspouts during an afternoon rain. The new
gutters worked well, and the porch stayed dry. This morning's roof
condensation dripped into the gutter rather than on the steps.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Removing screen doors

The three-year old helps remove the screen doors. They'll have to be
cut down 1/2 inch or so to clear the gutters.

Seamless Gutters

The gutters are going on today, complete with leaf guard. The boys
were delighted watching the machine bend the gutters into shape.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Air layering

The boys learn to air layer from Mr Blankenship, our friend and plant
man extraordinaire. They're practicing on an azalea.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Electricity to the well

Digging the trench to get electricity to the well. Gunter Sr and Jr on
the job with lots of Kiker boy helpers.