subway tiling, day one
Saturday, March 16 2019
Before Gretchen was up, I made an 8:00am firewood salvaging foray not far west of the Farm Road. A fairly large skeletonized oak had blown over since I'd last been back there, but of course it was hung up in another tree. I made fairly quick work of cutting it off about ten feet from the roots, which made some wood lower down available to salvage, though the upper part remained snagged in the tree, the difference being that it was standing closer to vertical. Typically what I do in a case like this is to keep cutting off pieces from the bottom (so long as it seems safe to do so) until the tree is standing vertical enough to push over. Even a large tree can be pushed over if it is very close to vertical. Today, though, I satisfied myself with some large pieces from the lower trunk, along with a few smaller pieces from super-dry branches that had snapped off along the way.
I didn't weigh this load, since I split most of it and put it directly into the third tranche of the woodshed. I generally feel better about salvaging dead wood than I would about cutting down live trees for firewood. But dead trees aren't really dead either. One of the pieces of wood I split this morning had, at its center, a nest of large black-and-red ants. When I split it open, there they were, all lethargic from the cold. I must've reached the very center of the nest, as one of the lethargic ants was large and had wings. I don't know if queens lose their wings or not, but since this was the only ant with wings, I assume it was the queen. I carefully put the log containing these ants into the woodshed's third tranche with hopes that on some warm day they can find a better place to regroup.
After Saturday morning coffee, I began the work of tiling the kitchen backsplash. This started with me doing some semi-procrastinatory steps like laying fibreglass mesh over cracks and along the edges of the surfaces I would be tiling. I also had to trim off some wedges protruding down from the behind the cabinets. But then it was time to do the real work, which involved mixing up the thinset, applying it to the surfaces to be tiled, and then, well, installing the tile. As I applied the thinset, I quickly realized this job was going to take longer than I'd anticipated. The space to be tiled wasn't huge (about 22 square feet), but the tiles were little six by three inchers, to be installed in the subway pattern so loved by house flippers in 2013. I set up the wetsaw in the driveway. The high today was only about 45 degrees Fahrenheit (I would've much preferred having had the time to do the tiling yesterday), but at least it was sunny. I hadn't wanted to do tiling in cold weather, as I had bad memories of doing the original tiling of the kitchen floor back in December of 2003. My memories had the tile saw showering me with frigid water, but when I went back and looked at the entry for the day of the kitchen tiling, I'd actually managed to avoid being soaked in cold water. I must've been soaked by cold water by my wetsaw at some point in history, perhaps during my first use of it to do some minor tile work in the upstairs bathroom, back before I knew how to avoid the spray. In any case, when I started cutting tile, I managed to largely stay out of the spray from my 16 year old wetsaw. The most annoying thing about that saw is how hard the power switch is to hit from beneath the rubberized panel it hides behind.
At some point I complained that I was famished, so Gretchen quickly whipped me up some sort of Amy's vegetable noodle dishes, to which she added big chunks of sesame tofu and perhaps broccoli. I scarfed it down way too rapidly, but I was on a time crunch. You can't dawdle when there is thinset spread out upon a wall. I ended up only tiling the east part of the backsplash (which is more than half of it). I then turned my attention to fixes necessary on the floor, places where the renovation had exposed places that I'd never tiled. All of these places are mostly outside where anyone will actually step, so tiling them would mostly be for cosmetic completeness. So I didn't really have to build out a proper subsurface. Nowhere in these fixes did I have enough room to install both Wonderboard and tile, so I satisfied myself by laying down a mat of fibreglass mesh and then glurping large amounts of thinset onto it. On top of this, I "floated" the tile I was installing. In some cases, I used thin slivers of scrap tile to hold the cosmetic tile at the correct level. This all worked fairly well, and I managed do three of the necessary four fixes to the floor.
After that, I spent a lot of time just cleaning up. There was wet thinset that had to be removed from the container I had mixed it in, and there was a bunch of it I had to clean off the floor and out of the sink. The sink cleanup was complicated by the fact that Gretchen had been making gorgeous strawberry & vanilla cupcakes for Nancy's birthday, and all the equipment that had been used for that was covered with buttery frosting. It was in the sink with all the thinset I'd been washing off my hands.
Though I hadn't finished the kitchen tiling, Gretchen was delighted by the progress I'd made (and how the results looked) so she was happy to go wherever I wanted to go for Saturday night "date night" (which has become a custom of ours in recent months). I opted for La Florentina, one of my favorite restaurants. It would be nice to go there with just Gretchen, as mostly we're with Cathy and Roy when we're dining there.
At La Florentina, we ordered our usual: a salad for Gretchen, a minestrone for me, and a sformato with tahini sauce as the main course. We'd also ordered a bread, but the waitress forgot to add that to our order, so it never came. I also ordered a half-caraf of the house merlot, most of which I ended up drinking. I'd been drinking kratom tea earlier, and I think though the red wine seemed to ease me out of that at first, at some point I started feeling slightly ill. It wasn't a terrible feeling, but it was enough that I was satisfied eating only half the sformato. That shit is great cold the next day, so there was no reason to eat it unless I really wanted it then.
I should mention that tonight the demographic at La Florentia skewed a bit old, older than us; aside from the staff, we were the youngest people there. As we get older, I treasure such occasions more and more.
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