house made of mud

rescuing a sonoran row house

falling walls redux

one morning when i was over at the house this past week we had an unpleasant return to a stage we had all hoped was long past: another wall came down. we’d known this particular wall was in bad shape–there was a huge chunk of concrete at the base that someone had used to try to repair it in the past. unfortunately–though predictably–the concrete had heaved and had to come out. you can see it in the photo below, beneath the window.IMG_3154

when they went to remove it, however, they discovered that there wasn’t much left to the wall without it. luckily no one was hurt–the guys ran pretty fast–but here’s what i saw when i came around the corner.Photo May 05, 7 40 07 AM

what happened next was some mad, mad shoring. because it’s an exterior wall, it carries a fair amount of roof, and though we could have put the ceiling beams in the room back up if they’d fallen, no one wanted that to happen if it could be prevented. a lot of grabbing of shoring poles and hurrying into the now somewhat dangerous room ensued. not to mention a lot of swearing. while they were working somewhat frantically–though, i have to say, also with a good deal of aplomb given the situation (it helped considerably that randy, the boss, also happened to be on site and immediately took charge)–i stood outside photographing and watching that huge crack above the collapsed wall portion visibly widening. the only thing holding it up was the bit of door frame you can see on the middle right of the photo. my heart was pounding like mad the entire time. not only did i not want that portion of the house to fall, i didn’t want it to fall on anyone!Photo May 05, 7 31 00 AM

a view from inside. it was important that they get the poles in quickly–but also important that they be level. that’s randy in the striped shirt on the right.Photo May 05, 7 33 31 AM

once we were sure the ceiling wasn’t going to go (thank god!), it was time to knock down the rest of the wall.

here it is afterwards.  Photo May 05, 8 11 47 AM

and another view from inside. the dust lent a nice, apocalyptic air.Photo May 05, 8 12 10 AM

on the bright side–better that this happen now rather than later, when someone might be sitting in the room, innocently eating potato chips on the couch or something. the silver lining is that this section of wall will now be brand new–and much more stable. by the afternoon, they’d already started the re-build. Photo May 06, 10 31 03 AM

never a dull moment, really, at our little house o’ mud.


    Julie Robertson

    May 9, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    Kathe, I love reading your posts, and I’m sorry I haven’t said so before now. One of the best jobs I ever had was working at Olivas Adobe in Ventura, California. I led tours, cared for the contents, and wrote collections management documents for the city. I loved, loved, loved that building. I almost starved on the terrible pay, and left to go back to school. I am looking forward to your next post.

    • Thank you, Julie, for the nice note. It is crazy, how adobes can affect us, isn’t it? Sometimes I can’t believe what we’re going through for this house, and yet now that we’ve started I can’t imagine not saving it. Here in Tucson you’ll sometimes see a bumper sticker that says “It’s an adobe thing.” Maybe you have them in Cali, too. Always makes me smile.

      • Kathe. We met at the mission. Philipp Neher frequently said he’d send me your blog but never did and i forget to remind him. very
        interesting of course. it’s good you spread the word that cement and adobe are totally incompatible and eventually divorce. because of 4 x more precipitation due to climate change, a vault of mine collapsed and i must go back to the border to rebuild. many of my students could rebuilt but all on the US side are too busy; thank god for a Mexican prof-engineer student of mine who will come in august.

        • Hello Simone~Yes, I remember meeting you at the mission. How nice that you found the blog! So sorry to hear about your adobe vault. I hope it goes back up without too much trouble. I do want to head out to Texas sometime to see your work. From what I’ve seen it’s lovely.

  2. Your attitude is great; good thing you are handling the moments like this so well! And with a sense of humor like that…”innocently eating potato chips…” What else could you do really. I love that you’re rescuing this old house made of mud. Can’t wait to swoon all over it!

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