Monday, February 24, 2020

One Thing Leads To Another

Awhile back I mentioned that I stumbled upon a bunch of new to me pictures of my mom online. What I didn't mention was that along with those pictures, I discovered a memorial to her on a popular grave genealogy site. The memorial only had one blurry closeup picture of her face so since I have an account to that website, I uploaded some better pictures. That led me to my grandfather whose memorial needed updating and which didn't link his parents. In the process of updating these memorials, the person who created them generously gave me control over the memorials since I am a family member. This prompted me to spend a little bit of time polishing them up.

All of this is to say that eventually I was lead down the rabbit hole of re-searching for new information on my 3rd great grandmother Mary Meyer/Mayer who died young and is a brick wall ancestor for me. Although I didn't find anything new, I did find some new information on her husband and my 3rd great grandfather John Kuck in the article above. What grabbed my attention was the surname of the German employee that drowned, Gerkins.

John Kuck left Germany and arrived in America in August of 1853. Although unknown to me, his reasons probably had to do with a lot of turmoil in his country and the opportunities that awaited in America to make his fortune. In the latter case, he did quite well and was quite wealthy during his lifetime. As I discovered more about him, I realized that although he came alone, brothers and sisters soon followed him and moved to his part of Iowa. By tracking down their families, I found another genealogist who provided me with about 90% of all pictures I have of him and his family. (All that stuff disappeared in a missing semi trailer belonging to my great grandparents that I have blogged about before.) So I was pretty comfortable he was not alone in the new world even if his parents never came over.

What I had never thought about until now was if other, not so close relatives also came with him. John's mother's name was Anna Gerkins. Herman Gerkins, age 32 and the deceased in the article above could very possibly have been a cousin to John Kuck. What intrigues me is that not just one person came to America but a family group came to America. I think it will require some mental ruminations on my part.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Failure One... Thousand

I've often heard people ask me how I get to know so much about home remodeling. The short answer is Youtube but the longer answer is that I'm not afraid to try new things and see how they go, even if I end in failure. I can't count the number of times I have tried something for the first time only to end in failure. Now I've got another one to add to a big list that will continue to grow.

I've mentioned before that the subcontractor textured our ceiling using an air powered hopper that shot drywall mud onto the ceiling and was knocked down with a plastic trowel. It created a holy mess and required a bit of set up and clean up afterwards. In an attempt to figure out a cleaner, easier way, I scoured the internet and found several videos about using a skip trowel technique. In it, they mix sand with the drywall mud which causes it to "skip" leaving the desired effect.

I tried to find some sand in town which turned out to be impossible though our major store for that sort of thing is  being remodeled itself and it is hard to find anything. So I ordered some sand online which turned out to be a very fine powder which I think was way too fine for what I needed to do. So I went back to the big box store and after looking around forever, found the only sand to be in 70 lb tubes used for putting in your car in winter and then sprinkling on the ground when needing traction. It was cheap enough so I bought it, mixed the few OUNCES I needed with a half bucket of drywall mud and gave it a go.

The result was horrible. I scraped it off and tried again. Same result so I tried yet again. Same result. Instead of skipping my trowel was just grabbing onto the sand and dragging it causing scratches and gouges in the surface instead. I think the sand was just way too coarse. So I just scraped it off and called it a day. Fortunately, despite having to buy 70 lbs of sand and wasting half a bucket of drywall mud, I'm only out about $10 at this point.

So after thinking about it awhile, I guess I'm going to go to plan B which is to do it the way the subcontractor did but just so more prep work so it doesn't get the rest of the house so messy. I found an air powered spray hopper for under $50 and I'm going to give it a go. The nice thing about drywall mud is if I don't like it, I have a window of time to scrape it back off. So now I wait a couple days for a package to arrive to give it a try.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Wreck

It was being billed as the coldest day of the year at -2 F with windchills closer to -30 F. The windy cold temperatures plus the three inches of snow that fell late in the evening had cancelled all the schools for the day but my mother-in-law had a medical appointment and my wife was at work so I had the short straw and took her to the appointment. My wife however said she was going to try to make it to the appointment so she could be in the room.

Sitting in the waiting chair reading a good book, I heard my wife come in and she casually walked  up to me and said she had wrecked the car in front of the hospital and it was totaled. I could see she seemed perfectly fine so I asked if she hit another car to which she replied no, she had hit something else. She was being kind of evasive and I wasn't sure if it was because we were in a waiting room or there was another reason. I do know that she has probably told me four or five times over the years that she has "totaled" her car and in most cases, a dent or a scratch were the worst things she suffered. I have always pegged it as just being a fairly new driver since she never learned to drive until after she married me.

I always am harping at my daughters and mother-in-law for leaving the house in winter without gloves, hats and warm coats. They think because we are getting in a car from a warm house and going right into a heated building on the other end, it isn't necessary and I always stress that things could happen along the way. Well because I hate juggling armfuls of hats, gloves and coats in a doctor setting, I hadn't heeded my own advice and left with just a light fleece jacket and a stocking cap.

I walked out of the hospital to where the entrance of it was and felt the cold wind biting at my face and torso already as I walked towards my wife's vehicle sitting at an odd angle adjacent to the road in the hospital lawn. When I got closer, I could see she had run over a large metal box full of wires, the kind you see around town that utility companies install to access underground services. Despite being all-wheel drive, the box was wedged underneath the car in such a way as to take pressure off all four tires so I couldn't get the car "unstuck" from the obstacle. I called a tow truck and waited.

Although the tow truck office was only 2 miles away (the reason I chose it over the half dozen other choices) and he said he would be right there, he didn't show up until nearly 50 minutes later. I was in the process of calling another tow truck when the first one finally arrived. By the time he got the car lifted off the smashed (turned out to be telephone service) box and set back down on firm ground, my hands felt like blocks of ice, my face felt like it was burning (which is better than not feeling it at all) and my torso was chilled to the bone. I negotiated a cash deal on the spot which he accepted and I drove the car up to the hospital entrance for my wife to take back to work.

Although the bottom lip of the radiator has some abrasion marks, nothing is leaking from it. The bumper is broken in half above the license place and has a hole in the lower part meant to guard the bottom edge of the radiator. But other than that, it is driveable and probably doesn't need to be fixed except for aesthetical reasons. The hospital maintenance truck showed up while I was waiting for the tow truck so see what had happened but didn't ask my name or seem too concerned about things. They just checked it out and left when I told them I had called a tow truck. So I assume they were fine with things and I just left the smashed metal telephone service box laying right where it was, picked up my mother-in-law in my car and drove home.

It took a full hour for me to get back to feeling normal temperature wise again. Never again will I disregard my own advice.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Skim Coat

Have I ever said I hate drywall? I hate drywall. That includes all its associated cousins like ceiling drywall as well.

The big reason I hate drywall is working with joint compound which is what you use to cover the seams and screw holes and in the case of getting rid of a popcorn ceiling, coat over the entire mess so that you have something relatively flat to work with when you go to re-texture the works. It is a perfectionists nightmare. You get some applied and just about perfect thinking one more swipe will do it and that swipes kicks up some drywall booger that leaves a gouge in an otherwise smooth surface or kicks up a ridge that requires yet another swipe or fifty. You can literally spend all day and not make progress with the stuff.

But I watched the drywall subcontractor quite a bit this summer while he was doing the kitchen walls and ceiling and picked up some helpful hints which I immediately disregarded for about half the ceiling. Less is more he said so I dutifully apply more. Eventually I got disgusted with a particular section and pressed down on my trowel dragging everything off and I was left with a nice smooth surface. What the heck? So I started doing that everywhere, essentially ending up with the "less" that the subcontractor had talked about and indeed it turned out to be more. I ended up getting along fairly well after that revelation.

Although in no way ready to paint, I think it is for the most part smooth enough to apply a skip trowel texture too and so I plan to eventually give it a try. The subcontractor had some sort of air powered gun that he sprayed globs of joint compound everywhere and I do mean everywhere. Even though he was just spraying the kitchen, I still spent a couple hours cleaning up over spray as far as the basement and our bedroom. So after searching the internet, I learned that there is perhaps a cleaner, albeit slower method of mixing in sand with the joint compound which causes the applying trowel to skip bits of ceiling and give you a look very similar to what is in our kitchen. It may not be exactly the same, probably won't be the same, definitely won't be the same, but will be close enough and more importantly, more my kind of speed.

But since I ended up with 2/3rds of a bucket of joint compound left and I don't have any sand (haven't found any sand) to mix with it yet, I will probably skim coat the living room ceiling first while I am on a roll. Now to start doing that furniture shuffle yet again.

Friday, February 14, 2020


So when I last left you, I was preparing for a legal battle of some sort since our former contractor said he wasn't paying anymore bills because we libeled him and didn't pay for gutters which were listed as included in his contract. The bill he didn't want to pay was actually for door hardware from the place where we picked out our cabinets and that too was a line item in his contract of included items. The cabinet place sent him (with our email address included) a bill for the hardware and said that at the end of January, they would start charging a late fee. We didn't reply to the email and filed it away in our folder of evidence.

I didn't hear anything for the next two weeks until today when I received another bill from the cabinet place. By I received, I mean it was emailed to both the contractor and our email address. The person being billed is our last name (misspelled) but with the address of the contractor. Interestingly enough, the majority of the bill had been paid and what was being billed now was the late fee which evidently didn't get paid. So the contractor evidently wizened up realizing he wasn't going to bluff us and paid all but the late fee.

I am a little relieved but am not going to put this behind me just yet. The contractor could still come after us but I feel we have a pretty iron clad case since it is listed in our contract as his responsibility and signed by both parties. Honestly, I really don't understand the logic of the contractor since relative to the total project cost that we paid him, the disputed amount is not even 1% of the total cost. He has lost fifty times that much business probably just from acquaintances of ours that were interested in finding a good contractor and asked us if we would recommend him. Although we always said the work was good, we also cautioned them that he had stopped paying for stuff that was included in our contract after the project was completed and we had paid him for his services. I have no doubt that he still has enough business (as do all contractors in our area) to make plenty of money but he definitely gave up a lot of money trying to extort us for a minuscule amount of money.

I have also learned my lesson. As someone who has mostly been a DIY person all my life and made this one exception in order to get the project done in a more timely manner, not only did I not get it done in a timely manner, but I'm paying the price of having to deal with other people who don't have my same value system. From now on, I will be my own contractor if there is something that needs to be done that I don't have the skills to do but for the most part, I hope to just go back to doing it myself. It was a tough lesson to learn.