Wednesday, September 20, 2017

finally, a post that is NOT about the flooding or demolition or clean-up

I did a little night photography earlier in the summer over the course of about two weeks when I happened out in the little backyard at twilight, not quite full dark and the outside light by the door was on. I took these using the automatic flash on my phone camera.

night blooming jasmine

white butterfly ginger

pink plumeria

yellow butterfly ginger

All wonderfully fragrant in their own subtly different ways.

I hadn't gotten around to doing a post with them and last week I noticed 5 flower buds on my night blooming cereus, the Queen of the Night, a flat leaved gangly cactus. 

And, as the gods would have it, they were going to open Friday night, the night the hurricane would blow in. Needless to say, I brought it in and they did bloom, filling the room with heavenly fragrance. I took these pictures holding the flashlight in one hand instead of the camera flash as it was too bright and yellowed the flowers.

Monday, September 18, 2017

one foot in front of the other

Every day has one or two or three or more goals. Sunday I got two done but they were the main goals. I had a few others, you know, if I had time and energy. I'm satisfied with achieving the main two especially since one of them took most the time. I scrubbed both sides of all the rubber floor mats that interlock and cushion the hardness of standing on concrete in shop and garage and set them out, propped on chairs or trees or whatever is available, to dry. Finally I covered as much of the exposed sub-floor in the kitchen as I could. Not a great floor covering but better than the sub-floor.

The other task was cleaning the metal frame of my desk, the two desktops, and the counter top from my cold working station in the garage and get them moved off the driveway and inside. The cabinet part of my cold working station is toast but the top is still usable. The minor items on the list were to finish cleaning the bathroom, finish vacuuming the house, and hosing down the floors on the slab one more time.

We moved back home on Saturday. The cat and dog were a little freaked out by the changes but enough remains the same so that they are getting used to the new normal. Today is yoga class but if my arms at 5 PM are as tired as they were Sunday at 5 PM I may not go, waiting til Wednesday instead.

Stopped to talk to a neighbor while walking Minnie last evening, trading damage stories mostly, how we are coping stories. Mentioned that the kitchen tiles had to come up because the sub-floor was wet. She said that 'they' are saying if the sub-floor got wet the floor has to come out. Nope. Not doing that. Not tearing out my hardwood floors, they are just a little wavy, I'll take my chances. I've got that high powered blower blowing under the house through the vents and I move it every day or two or so and Rocky is going to assess the floor joists and sub-floor when he gets under there.

I have mostly cleaned out the yard and gardens. Some things survived, some things looked like they were going to survive and then wilted like the Philippine violets and the toad lilies, some things survived in one place and died in another like the yellow bells over at the shop,

some things were washed away as if they had never existed like the ox-eye daisies and the periwinkles and the four-o-clocks and the purple coneflowers and 99% of the orange cosmos. 

My one german verbena survived for which I am glad and the black and blue salvia and the rock rose looked dead but some of both are already coming back. I'm not sure about the roses as they mostly look OK but some branches are starting to die. The flower beds at the back of the property are all mostly intact though I did lose the bulbine that I replanted after it froze last winter. The penta looks unfazed but it's losing foliage from the bottom up but that just may be normal for this time of year.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

about two weeks later

We are home. We are trying to reclaim some sort of normalcy but nothing about this is normal.  We have been at our second home, my sister's house, for about two weeks. During that time the lower house was torn apart, the upper house became a store room of sorts, and the cat was confined to the indoors. Minnie had a yard she could go out in but cats jump the fence.

It smells musty. At first, it smelled like rancid river water mixed with all the cow patties and overwhelmed septic systems. Not pleasant. Then after liberal sprayings with vinegar it pretty much didn't smell. We're still using the blower under the house. Right now it's blowing under the bathroom and the closets in Marc's office. I guess I'll move it tomorrow.

I want to use the hose to wash down the floors one more time in the part of the house that flooded. Our son ordered some product for us that eliminates odor and I plan on using it back there and in the kitchen on the sub-floor. Tomorrow I plan to scrub down all the interlocking rubber mats and make a new floor in the kitchen. I don't much like walking barefoot on the sub-floor.

Still waiting on the call from the FEMA inspector to schedule an inspection.

I'm feeling the need to clean every square inch of this house. Whether or not that gets done is another story.

I spent the day scraping out the old caulking around the tub and re-caulking it. It's not pretty but I hope it's effective. The knobs for the tub/shower leak which has caused decay behind the laminate on the walls. One more thing to be addressed in the remaking of our house. It's pretty ugly but hopefully it is sealed and won't cause any more decay until we can re-do it.

I'm tired. Tomorrow is another day. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

blessings in disguise...

beginning with that little 3 month old puppy someone dumped in our neighborhood two years ago and who made her way into our yard and hearts. It's not that she has brought a lot of joy and laughter into our lives, which she has, but that without her I would never have met the neighbors on the street who I now stop and visit with while walking her in the evenings and most especially Rocky and Melissa. I would not even have known that Rocky was a contractor/carpenter and without Rocky, I would have been at a total loss as to how to find a good contractor or one that would jump on the work immediately and not take advantage of me. I trust Rocky to be fair and do good work and he did not hesitate one minute when I finally walked down to his house last Sunday and asked him to come assess the rotten wood I had uncovered.

And while it would appear that half the house flooding would be a disaster and the aftermath would entail long hours of hard work, which it has, it too is a blessing in disguise for several reasons. The first of which is that we would never have discovered the damage to the structure of the house if it had not flooded and we hadn't had to tear out the sheet rock in the back bedroom and little bathroom and two layers of siding on the outside of the upper house. The damage there was not caused by the flood but the flood caused it to be revealed.

The second reason is that, while we did lose the bed and a chair and the futon and bookcases and my art and design books and everything else that was within reach of nearly 18” of water, we really didn't lose anything that would have devastated us.

And third, while we talked a good talk about remodeling those two rooms, in truth, we probably never would have done it. Now we get to.

And last, ditto for the shop and the four built-in rooms in the big metal building. They were awful but in the going on four years we have had the shop we have done nothing. That part was unusable for many reasons and for the last two days, Rocky's crew have been engaged in not just tearing out the part of the walls that got wet, but demolishing that entire part of the shop. I'm thrilled! Once he has completed the work of rebuilding people's homes damaged in the flood, he will start on rebuilding the interior rooms of the shop and I will have work space over there that I can heat and air condition and be able to work in over the summer.

And finally, while we have been inconvenienced for a few weeks and now have a great story to tell about the great flood and suffered some loss, so many more lost everything. For all this I can be grateful.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

work begins

Saturday, the water had receded to the point that we could get to the house in my sister's car and we drove over there in the morning to get the rest of the dry goods groceries and stuff and to pick up our car which you might remember I had parked over at the shop the day the flood happened as it was the highest ground I could get to. Fortunately the water there only rose about 6” and the car was undamaged. 

the butterfly garden

the water lily pond is under there somewhere

the front flower bed

Drove back to Pam's and picked up Marc and we headed back to the house to start emptying the two rooms and getting ready for demolition removing the paneling in my in-house studio and the sheetrock and wet insulation from the walls in the back bedroom and small bathroom about four feet up, vinyl flooring hauled out and floor tiles scraped up. Over the course of the three day Labor Day holiday our son, daughter and son-in-law and grandson, and friends Gene and Brian came out to help us. We still had about an inch of water in the house so we started sweeping it out and moving out the stuff that was up high and savable and dragging out all the stuff that was damaged. Oh, and the smell was just horrible.

all my art books..muerta

my design research books..same same

It's been 10 days of continuous hard physical labor though about halfway through I did take a day off. We're living at my sister's house, generally get to our house about 10 AM and work til 6 PM and drag our sorry tired butts home to a great dinner ready for us to do it again the next day.

After the holiday, Gene and Brian and their friend Lee came out on Tuesday and hauled stuff over to the shop and worked in the shop all day dragging out the wet carpet there and in general doing as much clean up as they could as the shop got about 6” of water in it and I was finally able to hose out the floors in the house and wiped all the exposed wood down with vinegar. Wednesday another friend came and helped get the garage washed out and the stuff that was savable off the driveway.

Then I spent the next two days emptying the brick planters of stinky river soaked dirt, gravel, and brick pieces that whoever built the house thought was a great idea to build INSIDE the house. The dirt got spread out in the low spot beside the house, the dirty gravel got spread out on the driveway which was in need of it, and the brick pieces got chucked as far into the Wild Space at the back of the property as I could chuck them.

Then some of the floor tiles in the kitchen popped up and we discovered the sub-floor was wet (which is why the wood floors in the upper house are now a bit wavy) so those had to be all scraped up. Friend Wesley loaned us a high powered blower which we are using to help dry the sub-floor from underneath the house. 

Then I noticed the siding shingles were bulging on a corner of the upper house and pulled off a few of those to find some serious damage to the structure of the house and removing the sink and toilet in the little bathroom and the wallboard there also showed some major damage. 

That was last Sunday and this was more than we could deal with. Time to get a professional on board so I walked down to Rocky's house, our neighborhood carpenter/contractor, for an assessment. The siding on the house needed to come off all the way around and the shower had to be taken out before he could know exactly what the damage was and what needed to be repaired. So yesterday and today he and his crew worked on that and discovered another large area on the front of the house where there was a lot of rotten wood and squashed floor joists which is probably why the front door frame is out of square.

that pile of rubble used to be the shower

Marc and our grandson, who drives out nearly every day after he gets off work from his job in Houston, had cleared the yard of all the debris and hauled it over to the burn pile and mowed several days previous. The mosquitoes have been big, black, and fierce. Starting yesterday, I was finally able to address what is left of the flower beds. I'm slowly working my way around the yard raking debris into small piles as I go, discovering what survived and what didn't.

We've about got as far as we can get on the house now until FEMA comes out and inspects the damage and we see what they will offer us . We had no insurance or home owner's insurance. They do provide money grants which is what we are hoping for but probably all we will get is a low interest loan which we will decline. Not interested in borrowing money. Once we can turn our attention to the upper house and get it cleared out of all the stuff that has been moved in there, we can move back in and do the remodel at our leisure. Rocky will go ahead and repair the structural damage before the inspector comes but I will take plenty of pictures for proof, as if the obvious new repair isn't proof enough, and then he will do the minimal demolition over at the shop until such time he gets a breather and can demolish the entire built in part of the shop. He was headed to the lumber yard with a materials list when he left today and I'm waiting to hear from him to find out how much this is going to set us back.

Our street, like so many in the county and town, is a canyon of ruined possessions and construction materials piled high on either side. Many of the homes on my street were built entirely on a slab and they lost everything.

As bad as things are for us it could have been so much worse.

last: blessings in disguise

Sunday, September 10, 2017

water walk and first look

Friday, Sept. 1st, Wesley brought us back to my sister's house after we spent the night at their place, The Dragonfly venue. Early afternoon I got a text from Carolyn that Wesley was going to try to check out the Wharton Historical Museum to see if they took on water and since the museum is just down the road from our neighborhood, did I want to go with and see if we could get to the house. Yes!

So Wesley picked up Marc and I in his high water truck and we headed out to try. Richmond Road, also business 59, was blocked off by the police and even though I showed my ID proving that we had a reason to get down the road and the truck we were in was obviously capable of getting there, the officer would not let us pass. “You will need a police escort”, she told us, so we pulled into a parking lot while Marc called the Wharton police who told us, “You're in the county, call the county”. Right about then the officer who denied us passage walked over and told us that we might be able to get there through some of the smaller roads that didn't have roadblocks set up but 'you didn't hear it from me'.

Unfortunately there were only three roads that went through to where my neighborhood is in the county...the one we were on, the next main road one block over that was also blockaded, and the third on the far end which was blocked off because the bridge had washed out. Then I remembered a county road that sort of circled around through another neighborhood and came out on the other side of the road with the washed out bridge so that's where we went. The road was dry for the most part but then we reached a point where even it was under water but not so deep that Wesley wasn't willing to keep going as long as he could see the edges of the road.

This road makes a little squiggle before it makes the left turn that takes it back to the main road from which we could access my neighborhood and as we approached the squiggle the water continued to get deep and because it was muddy, the edges of the road were not visible. Wesley was still willing to continue but he was concerned about going off the edge and if we did that we would surely be fucked so I put on his rubber boots since I don't own any who lives in the country for nearly 8 years without owning rubber boots! and yes they were too big and climbed down out of the truck and walked in front of it finding the edges of the road. The water was about calf deep...five steps forward, then side stepping to the right counting my steps til I felt the grass, then side stepping to the left til I felt the grass, then back to center and five steps forward etc. and we continued that way as the water got deeper and deeper until it was almost up to my lady parts before it began to get shallower again. In this manner we navigated through the squiggle and the left turn until Wesley could see the edges of the road again and we continued unimpeded to the house.

The street was mostly dry but the yard was still flooded with about 6” still in the garage and the lower part of the house. Waded through to the door into the upper house to find it was dry with no evidence of water having been in! The wood floors were slightly raised at the edges, just a bit wavy from the sub-floor getting wet but not so bad it can't be lived with. We grabbed some clothes and my computer and headed back to my sister's house. We didn't have to repeat the path in as the blockade was just preventing people from going out of town, not coming in and by the time we got to it, it had been removed anyway.

I took no pictures this day.

next: work begins

Saturday, September 9, 2017

another rescue of sorts

There was no sleeping at the shelter which was all wood floors with a stage and long tables and chairs but that aside, they kept the lights on because they were still bringing people in and the young children were so hyped up they were all running around screeching and babies were crying. I got up on the stage with the dog and laid down in a back corner using my extra shorts and shirt as a 'pillow' trying to get some rest at least while Marc stayed on the main floor talking with friends Judy and Leonard, the neighbors who were rescued with us. I could only lay on my back as my bony hips did not like that wood floor. I kept telling myself 'you can do this, you do this all the time at yoga, it's just a very long shavasana'. The kids finally all dropped from exhaustion sometime around 3 AM when they finally had stopped bringing people in and turned off the lights.

Around 5 AM Thursday morning I texted my friend Caroline who lives on the Square in the upstairs apartment of the buildings she and husband Wesley own because I knew she would probably be up by then to see how they were fairing, if the river had crested, if they had water in the street since the Square is only two blocks from the Colorado River but it is also the highest ground in town. I was concerned about my sister who had called us in a panic for the number to call for a water rescue just as we were being rescued...her power had gone out, she was surrounded by water and it was about a foot from coming in her house. The last time I talked to her was once we were on the pavement waiting to be ferried to the shelter, she had got the number and called for rescue. The next time I tried to call her, her phone went straight to voicemail and I had no idea where she was or if she was OK.

Caroline was still on dry ground and volunteered Wesley, when he got up, to go to her house and check on her in his F 600 Ford work truck which you practically need a step ladder to get in to. That proved to be unnecessary as my sister called shortly. She had tired of waiting to be rescued (and in fact rescues had been suspended til daylight), turned off her phone to preserve the battery, and gone to bed as the water had quit rising. About 9 AM, Wesley showed up at the shelter to take us to Pam's as while her front yard and street was covered with deep water, 

standing on my sister's small front porch looking across the street

looking left

looking right, she got about 18” in her garage

her backyard slopes up to high ground and we only had to wade through about knee deep water to her back door. Eventually the power came back on and we were quite happy to be there when two guardsmenboys came to the door asking if we wanted to be evacuated as they were opening a dam and they expected the river to rise overnight. We declined at first (I'm already losing some of the details) but I talked to Caroline again and she volunteered Wesley to come get us and we could stay downstairs in one of the party rooms (their buildings on the square are event venues) that had leather banquettes and power and I was all for it. I had to do a little arm twisting on Pam because she didn't want to leave her house, told us to go ahead on to which I replied that we were not going to be separated, it was only for one night, and “I was not going through another night like last night” being rescued with the water lapping at the door so we gathered up pillows, sheets, clothes, and animals and Wesley came and got us. As it turned out, they did not open a dam and the water actually receded about 6” overnight. The next morning, Friday, Wesley ferried us back to my sister's house.

next: water walk and first look