Friday, July 24, 2009

Water, water, everywhere...

We have a surface water problem. Our neighborhood consists of brick twins with garages in the ground-level basement (we're on a slope: the basement is ground-level in the back, but not the front.) Most people have asphalt driveways up to the house, and most people have paved their back alley as well. Many people have paved their garden areas in addition to the alley and driveway. All this paving results in a lot of surface water after a storm with nowhere to go. Nowhere to go, that is, until it finds my basement.

We are at the low point of our block; neighbors on both sides repaved not long before we moved in, and so their driveways are just a couple of inches higher than ours. That, coupled with the next door neighbor's faulty drainpipe means we get more than our fair share of run-off. What to do?

The first thing was adding extenders to the downspouts. Just 8 feet took the water past the point where it heads directly into my basement. However, during what my mom would call a "gully-washer" we'd still have a problem, and we are developing potholes in the alley from all the standing water.

We could just pave it; make it a few inches higher, and dump the water on some other poor chump. That doesn't seen very civic-minded and it doesn't help the environment much. While Thomas will probably like having a lot of pavement once he has a skateboard, I'm not sure my nerves can handle watching that.

I've thought about this a lot. I mean A LOT. After a substantial amount of research, I have decided that the answer is installing a green driveway. I got a quote from a landscaper to do permeable paving, but I don't like the way it looks, plus it's hard to walk on if you like high-heeled shoes. Instead, I am hoping to have Grasspave2 installed. I am very excited about this stuff because it looks just like grass (it IS grass, with a recycled plastic matrix beneath it) and it can take a lot of water. It can take my run-off as well as my neighbor's and then some. There are still many details to hammer out, but I think this is the way to go. Wish us luck; we need it!

Here's the before view: dismal, hot, not very useful, and a drainage nightmare.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Phase one of the grand project could be done, depending on how I decide to define it. I am a pretty ambitious person, so maybe it is not surprising that I did not meet my original (unrealistic?) goal. What is phase one? A dry stacked stone wall to adjust the slope of our side yard away from the back door, and out toward the (forthcoming) rain garden and back alley. Building a dry stone wall is complex in its own way, and now that I am getting in to it, I am enjoying it. I wish I had photographs to share, but I am wedging this work in between my paid work and taking care of Thomas, who is helping in the way that only a two and a half year old can, so I haven't paused to take pictures. I worked until dark tonight, and would have kept going by porch light, but the mosquitoes convinced me otherwise

This work is engaging in a way that word games are. It both focuses your attention and frees the mind. I think that it would be very good work for poets. It is also doing great things for my upper arms.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Forward in all directions

I haven't been posting lately, and it's not because I have nothing to talk about. Rather, I have been working on everything, and getting nothing done. I have a major project in the works, and I think that Phase 1 should be finished by Sunday. This project has involved shopping in places with really cool tools, and having trucks come to the house -- Thomas loves it.

I got some estimates for work I need done in and around the house. It is a big drag not to be handy. Seriously. I can do all sorts of things: I can estimate the space needs of an academic library with 20 years growth and give it to you in linear feet; I can make delicious yogurt; I can identify an 18th century binding at 20 paces, but I am not so great with home repair. Part of it is my concern that the work be done right, and part of it is that I never have the right tool for the job. I don't want to buy the tool, because I am not very handy, so it seems like a waste... yes, it's a self-perpetuating cycle.

However, one of the estimates pushed me to think about doing the work myself. I asked a bunch of friends for advice, and what do you know, a few offered to help! $600 of materials later, and I am in neck-deep. Let's hope this works. Wish me luck.