Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Wednesday Vignette: Hazard Zone

We've lived in our current house for more than 7 years.  We've talked on and off about renovating our kitchen.  My issues mainly have to do with the work surfaces, cabinetry, and aging appliances.  My husband is more concerned with the layout and the annoying upper cabinet he still bumps his head on.  Our discussions never led anywhere until the cabinets literally began falling apart.  We met with a contractor and designer who'd done work for a neighbor and, as these things go, we fell down a rabbit hole.  My husband, who I thought was committed to keeping the project small, proposed raising the roof height over the kitchen and pushing one wall into the existing patio area by 5 feet.  I thought the roof height change might be an issue.  It wasn't.  But pushing out the wall is.  The city we live in has designated an open spaces hazard zone, intended to address landslide risks.  We knew that but we'd received notice in 2012 that the city was planning to move the hazard zone east.  For whatever reason, that hasn't happened.  And it seems that the current hazard zone runs right through the middle of our house.  So we filed the appropriate paperwork and paid a fee to request a review.  The city geologist didn't see any obvious problems but we were told we had to obtain and submit a formal evaluation of the site.  That meant hiring a geologist and digging some very big holes.  The geologist's team arrived bright and early yesterday morning.

The change we've proposed would involve extending the kitchen wall (the one with the garden window on the left) to align with the back portion of the house that's already bumped out.  We cleared the space for the geology crew and my husband erected a shade cover before they arrived so they wouldn't be working in direct sun.

As it turned out, instead of 2 holes in the patio area next to the kitchen, they dug one there, one at the patio's edge near the mimosa tree, and another at the bottom of the back slope.  So the shade cover was of minimal use.  I kept the crew supplied with water and coffee cake, though.

This was hard work, involving jackhammers as well as shovels.  The temperature outside reached 95F by mid-day.

The biggest hole, dug until they reached bedrock, was 5.5 feet in depth (shown here with the geologist in an orange shirt standing in it)

They took soil samples from each hole.  In general terms, our soil is classified as volcanic basalt.


Digging the holes, data collection, and restoring the area took 5 hours.  The diggers worked incredibly hard.  It was all the more impressive as we're in the middle of yet another heatwave.  The off-the-cuff comments were positive.  As the crew reached bedrock between 3.5 and 5. 5 feet in all 3 cases, the foundation for our kitchen extension doesn't present any obvious issues, although it'll be weeks yet before we get the formal report.  Then we have to submit it to the city with a good-sized check for review.  If approved, we then have to fit our project into the contractor's and designer's schedules.  Fun.  This adventure represents my Wednesday Vignette.  For more, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

In addition to the holes dug into our patio and garden, I faced another hazard this week: the heat.  After the damage done by the early July heatwave, I'm gun-shy and I've gone to great lengths to protect my garden from further heat damage.  I spent a good part of last weekend deep watering selected areas and spreading more mulch.  My husband and I also erected shade covers of various sorts.

Covering a big area of my succulent bed on the south side may seem odd but, in the middle there is my Metrosideros 'Springfire'.  After July 6th's 110F temperature, it's barely hanging on so I'm doing everything I can to baby it.

I've been waiting for the green blooms of the Lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum) in this bed for months now.  The plants were scorched in the last heatwave so I purchased a beach umbrella to protect it this time.

The lath house may look the same at first glance but emergency measures have been taken there too as the structure didn't protect all the plants inside during the last heat blast

Until we can construct more attractive shade covers for use during the summer season, we tacked up an old sheet in the roof rafters.  I moved most of the plants on the upper shelves to the floor too.

I also brought out a broken umbrella to provide additional shade for the Fatsia japonica and other plants


The heatwave is expected to peak today with the temperature here approaching the century mark but, oddly, we awoke to fog blowing in.

It feels a little like an episode of the Twilight Zone.   The world around us has suddenly disappeared.  Even the harbor seems strangely quiet this morning.  Not that I'm complaining!  The weather forecasters are continuing to tell us it's going to be hot, Hot, HOT!


All hazards pose challenges.  Some are easier to tackle on one's own than others.  My fingers are crossed that we'll successfully work our way through both of the challenges addressed in this post.


All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

28 comments:

  1. All those big men digging holes in my garden would have driven me bonkers. Did you have some Valium on hand? I would have needed it. We're having a heat wave here too, not as high as yours, but it is supposed to hit the 90s today. The Seattle Times ran an article about people who keep cool without air conditioning and one woman said she sprays her entire house (it's a ranch) with the hose in the late afternoon/early evening to cool it down. I wonder if that would work on your lath house. Are you allowed to do something like that?

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    1. I was perturbed when they discussed digging up a mass of creeping thyme and some succulents bordering the patio, Alison, but then they agreed that a second hole at the edge of the patio would do. Pipig is the one who needed valium! Her reaction doesn't bode well for the reno itself, which is likely to go on forever...

      As to hosing down the lath house, we're prohibited from hosing down driveways, sidewalks and the like but there's probably no specific rule against hosing down a structure. However, given how open it is, I'm not sure it'd work as well as hosing down a house roof. I've been sourcing shade cloth - it's probably the right solution.

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  2. Thanks for sharing this info and the photos. These are things we don't even think about here in the Midwest, alone know about. We have tornadoes and a couple of them have come very close to us (mere city blocks away) but somehow that seems minor. We just need a basement to go to for safety and we have that. I keep looking at my kitchen and it could use updating but I can't bear the interior chaos after two former remodeling projects. So we're getting a new sink and faucet which will spiff it up but don't know if anyone will notice it but us. Hope the heat recedes soon.

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    1. The tornado reports on the news always scare me, Linda! I immediately think of Dorothy landing in Oz. Land on this side of the peninsula has been slowly slipping for decades but the most active area runs nearer to a golf course associated with a certain political figure, which I'd frankly love to see slip quietly into the ocean.

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  3. Wow - this is an exciting vignette, Kris! After all that, I really hope you do get the green light to move ahead. That picture with the guy in jeans digging, blew me away... This heat makes me feel kind of like the slug in *my* vignette. Even the thought of dressing in jeans is rather torturous! ~ Anna K

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    1. I felt so sorry for the guys doing the digging, Anna! Even at 8am when they got started, it was already hot. One guy changed his shirt at least 3 times. In retrospect, I wish I'd had ice on hand for them.

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  4. Oh my, Kirs, this is a lot to go through before your sell your house to move to the PNW :) Like Alison, I'd be a bit crazy having people digging huge holes in my garden. The turmoil of projects like this is what's stopped us from getting more done on our house, which badly needs a new kitchen and bathroom remodels. (Well, there's also our laziness but that's another story.) Good for you for biting the bullet and getting this underway. Hope your protective measures are successful during this heat wave. We don't have AC but our basement never gets above 60 degrees no matter how hot it gets outside.

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    1. Upon learning of our reno plans, a good friend of mine suggested that we'd be better off hunting for a new house, Peter! I admit to great trepidation. My husband and I've been together since we were college freshman but I expect this experience may test our bonds like nothing else! As to your basement, maybe we need to add one of those to our reno plan ;) Can you imagine the approvals required to dig a basement here?!! I'm sure there are some in SoCal but I can't say I've ever seen one.

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  5. So glad for the update. That's a huge hurdle to have behind you. I was bracing for today being hotter than yesterday, as predicted, but it's much milder, not even breaking 85. Love it when they get the heat forecast wrong! I've got some shade stuff rigged too that I probably won't take down until October!

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    1. The hurdle won't be completely behind us until/unless the city signs off. It'll be aggravating in the extreme if they don't - or, perhaps worse yet, require another study of some kind.

      It reached 92F here but that's still well short of expectations and the temperatures have already declined into the low 80s, which is better than yesterday. I expect that surprise morning marine layer helped us out some.

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  6. At least you know you won't slide off that hill. I can't imagine having to go through all this for a reno. You must have a bad case of the wants. I hope your shade measures help. It sounds like you will be in this inferno for some time. Best of luck with all.

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    1. I was ready to accept a remodel within the same footprint, Lisa - my husband surprised me by proposing something far more ambitious. That said, I lived with a kitchen I hated in our first house for nearly 2 decades so I do look forward to making some changes. I've suggested that maybe we should rent a property nearby for 6 months during the process, though...

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  7. Oh, my, what a lot of hoops to jump through. You sound so accepting, I don't think I'd be so cool-headed, esp. with a kitchen renovation - food is so important to me -hehe!

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    1. As my husband has a severely restricted diet that doesn't allow us to buy much in the way of processed food, much less eat out (well, I can eat out but not him), this is a big deal for us too, Eliza. However, my husband is approaching this as a project on par to what he did in the workplace (he was a rocket scientist) so he's determined to conquer the obstacles. You should see the plans he has for a temporary kitchen...

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  8. Holy moly, what a mess! The news sounds encouraging, so that's great. Hope the geology works out for you. The bad part about getting remodel approval is that then you have to survive the remodel itself, with the noise and dust and Pipig being Pretty Mad About Strangers In Her House.

    Here it's not as hot as predicted, "only" 88F, but the heat may peak tomorrow instead, according to the NOAA forecast. If it would just cool off at night! Envious of your fog--that looks cool, in the temperature sense. Cool in the other sense, too.

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    1. Pipig's reaction to the geology crew and their jackhammers wasn't auspicious as to her reaction to the reno itself, HB. She kept creeping into closets and under the loveseat in my office. I may have to get her a Valium prescription...

      Both AccuWeather and Weather Underground are predicting a drop into the upper 70s here tomorrow but I think those forecasters must take drugs - their forecasts are almost always lower than our personal weather stations show. Not that I wouldn't be happy if they're right.

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  9. Those are both major challenges, Kris - hope you have the best of luck with them! At least the initial feedback was good :)
    I like your umbrella ideas; it's been an inferno here too, of course - 114 F the past few days and not dropping as it should at night. I found a nice (and nicely priced) Melampodium leucanthum the other day and brought it home, assuming I could keep it going till the weather was nice enough for planting - after all, it's a die-hard desert native, right?! So far it's just barely making it... Your fog looks goooood!

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    1. We're not cooling down as much as we should at night either, Amy. That seems to be a common occurrence with these protracted heatwaves now. I planted 3 Melampodium this spring - they're all long gone! I can't figure out how they do so well in Texas but fail so badly here - although, when it rains in Texas it REALLY rains (as I learned during the Austin Fling).

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  10. Oh dear, you've really been through quite a process lately--between the testing, the construction, and the heat waves! I hope the heat will pass quickly and the project will proceed quickly and smoothly from here on out.

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    1. My guess is that the kitchen remodel project, which will also involve an HVAC upgrade and the installation of new flooring through about half of the house, won't start until next year, Beth. We still have to wait on the geologist's report, the city's approval of the extension, and the contractor's schedule.
      And, given the current plan to raise the roof-line over the kitchen and extend the wall, we're looking at 6 months of utter chaos when work begins.

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  11. 97 for a high here today (after three days at 95) I am feeling so bad for anyone having to work outside in the sun and heat.

    How exciting, but also terrifying to think of a big project like that. Putting a bathroom in our basement was such an ordeal (finally complete) I am going to need a couple years to recover ! (Seeing plantable soil inside the house, after they jackhammered away the concrete floor, and having cement piped down the staircase to relay the floor are two of the memorable highlights). Fingers crossed you and your husband (and Pipig) can weather this positive storm with minimal heartache.

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    1. We had morning fog yesterday which kept our temperature below the forecast. It's back again this morning so we're getting a break even though many areas aren't. I hope you get your own break from the heat soon!

      I'm pretty terrified about this remodel myself but, with the work my husband's already put into driving review of the proposal, I think we're committed. Pipig's reaction to the geologist's crew alarmed me - she was freaked. And, given my husband's need to make almost everything he eats from scratch, going without a real kitchen for months is unnerving.

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  12. What hoops you have to jump through to do this building, Kris! All power to you for being both tenacious and patient. As usual I had to resort to Mr Google to identify some of your plants and was sorry to read that your Metrosideros is struggling. In NZ (where I’m from originally) they are beautiful trees that flower prolifically in December. I do hope your weather cools down soon.

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    1. I'd coveted that Metrosideros for a long time and was very pleased by how nicely it bloomed this spring, even though it's still relatively small. To have it turn mostly yellow overnight in response to that 110F (43C) heat spike we experienced earlier this month was heartbreaking. But it still has some green leaves so I retain some hope it'll recover.

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  13. A remodel is always stressful, but you appear to be taking it in stride. I'm sure it will be fabulous to have the kitchen you've been dreaming about. And hopefully you'll get a break from the heat soon too.

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    1. I'm sure I won't be anywhere near as casual about the reno when the work really starts, Pam!

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  14. I'm with Pipig - loath noisy strangers in my space. Poor Chocolat shot out the garden gate, and straight back in to hide in a secluded garden corner, till I could retrieve him.

    And we had a few pizzas delivered ... can you freeze ahead for your husband?

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    1. Pipig usually dashes out of her porch to enjoy a few minutes outside when I open the door to clean her box but, on this date, she wouldn't even budge off her perch - and the the workers were still sitting in their trucks on the street waiting for the rest of their crew to arrive at that point! It's going to be a long 6 months - for all of us.

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