Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hello Birdie

The little ceramic-teapot-bird-house that has been hanging in our backyard for a couple of years may possibly have its first resident. This past weekend as we sat on the patio, a cute little bird was carrying little twigs into the bird house! I'm not sure what kind of bird it is yet but it does have a distinct chirp. It doesn't stay long, so now I check each day to see if there is any signs it's around.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Plumbing for Creativity

First of all, Happy New Year!

How about we get right down to DIY work by building a new bathroom in the Master bedroom?

I had planned a few years ago to make this happen and hoped my skills would get good enough so I could do a substantial amount of the work.  I decided that the old closet area would be the ideal location and began the process of demolishing and reframing the outline for a small bathroom with a big shower.  Long hours of consultation with Andrea led to a good plan of what we will have in the new bathroom.

Below are pics we are using to help envision our master bathroom layout,  colors and tile.

So with the New Year, we begin this major project.  However, I still needed to hire an expert plumber to install the DWV pipes that carry water and waste out properly.

I lucked out considerably by finding Bill Tinkey, a highly experienced plumber who also happens to teach others how to be plumbers.  Bill is a natural teacher who communicates clearly and concisely and makes the process enjoyable.  If you want to build a bathroom, and have a small budget, I recommend hiring someone like Bill who will work with you to get the job done quickly and correctly.  I understand the challenge of working with 'newbies' on a project but Bill doesn't make you feel like one and after awhile you begin to feel pretty confident in the work he has you do.

 Coincidentally, a new mural is being painted inside the underpass on our street.  We drive by every day and see the amazing work by local, community-based artists as they use the concrete wall as a canvas to convey a message of Art, hope and peace.

Experiencing these two events simultaneously,  I start to contemplate plumbing and Mural Art.

It's really amazing to think that modern indoor plumbing in the home has only been around for about 100 years or so.  Our 1898 Cottage Victorian was, of course, built without indoor plumbing which was added perhaps 10-20 years later.  For a fun, informative read, check out the 'History of Plumbing' and be thankful you live in the 21st Century.

Nowadays, nearly all materials that go into making a bathroom are lighter, stronger and healthier for you.
However, a quick trip to your local Home Depot will soon overwhelm you with amount of choices you have in selecting fixtures, tiles, showers and even toilets.  There are even toilets with heated seats and covers which open and close when it senses movement. Thomas Crapper would be aghast.

 With plumbing and murals swimming in my head, we venture out for a nice Saturday hike to The Albany Bulb.  "The Albany Bulb (also simply known as The Bulb) is a former landfill largely owned by the City of Albany, in California. The Bulb is the west end of a landfill peninsula jutting west from the east shore of San Francisco Bay."-wikip

In 1984, Bay preservationist successfully closed down the landfill and, over time, nature began to move in and reclaim the land.  Trails had been installed and you can get extraordinary views of the SF skyline and bridges.

Mostly what you see are huge pieces of old concrete jutting out from the soil surrounded by various trees and wildflowers.  Where some people see concrete, others see canvases.  So as you stroll around the park, you see evidence of the rampant urge to turn something ugly and innocuous into something interest, tasteful and even beautiful.

Although you might find a 'yellow brick road', that doesn't mean you are in a fantasy world.  Hidden among the overgrown areas and trees are several homeless encampments.  Andrea and I are reminded about the realities of modern life and talk about the various issues surrounding homelessness, a serious problem everywhere.

Somehow, the topic turned to how Native Americans of the Bay once lived here hundreds of years ago, and wondered what their perspective of 'plumbing' would have been.  How did they make hot water?  What did they use as a toilet? How did they manage to get fresh clean water in an area that doesn't readily have fresh water springs?  How did they bathe? 

I suppose these very same questions could be asked of the homeless who live on the Bulb today. As we speculated about these important questions, we came upon a series of sculptures along the bay banks presumably made by some of the homeless.

These works are not amateurish and are quite striking and poignant in their innovative use of landfill materials.

As I marvel at the creativity of these unknown artists, I begin to think that the need to express ones creativity is very strong and vital in humanity.  Whatever the living conditions are or the time period, people find the time and the resources to make something that is not a part of the natural world but parallels it by adding a layer of beauty and interest.  The garbage and castoffs from society eventually become homes to wildlife and to those people who cannot find a place in society.  A sense of community grows up around a place and people find a way to live and create despite some serious hardships.  As we start the New Year, I am thankful that I can add a bit of "luxury" to our home but also feel confident that I could build a pretty good shelter in a Shanty Town should life's fortune change.  I could probably build a nice DWV (drain/waste/vent) too and add a rain barrel to help capture rain water.  Perhaps it's our inner creative urges that makes us think about building things in newer and better ways so life doesn't have to be so harsh?