Our Garage+ Project – Week One Update

I wanted to see if I can do a quick weekly update on our garage+ project as there is some interest. Why garage+? Because we are, as discussed in my last post, not only demolishing and replacing the garage, we are adding a lot of functionality by way of a second floor and a big deck – plus replacing the deck attached to our home (the garage is not attached), repaving the driveway, and replacing our front door, etc. This is because we have no intention to move!

I’ll be doing this “garage+” as a separate series – as long as I can – hopefully weekly. My hobby and golf stuff posts will be separate – though I also have to get in some Aztec stuff for Dave’s Season of Scenery Challenge – maybe the garage+ can also count! I’m, as you Brits and Aussies say, chuffed, to get this going. Though I neglected going through my followed blogs for a bit (hobby stuff and golf and this project!), and I just finished a month of blog reading over the last week – so FINALLY I am caught up).

As for week one, Andy Cormier got in the excavator as you saw on Monday the 19th of July. He was able to knock the garage down easily on Tuesday – though I missed it as I was…yes…golfing. My wife did get a few shots of that – the garage not my golfing…

The garage is gone!! All that you see here is the asphalt floor as the building is somewhere in a dumpster traveling for disposal/recycling.
On Wednesday, it was time to remove the asphalt floor. It was clearly originally placed by hand as the thickness of the lift varied considerably. The asphalt was not placed by a professional! There were all kinds of junk underneath, to include wood and the power supply to the building (just laid under the asphalt). Andy capped that power off.
After the asphalt was carted off (it gets recycled differently), Andy was able to excavate under the original floor. I was curious to see if there were footings of any type under the double 2″ x 4″ and the single 2″ x 6″ boards that supported the roof on the left side. There were not!!! Also, here you see that under the back end of the garage that the previous owner had basically dumped in broken building refuse of many types (bricks, chunks of concrete) as “foundation” under the back wall. No wonder it was slumping! The engineer in me was amazed at such poor construction practices (old habit dies hard – even though I last did construction in the US Army).
Andy also had to deal with a lot of roots that found their way under the building – our soil is exceptionally sandy and well-draining in East Brookfield. It put up no resistance to many roots!
Getting down to 4 feet below grade. Some folks thought we were installing a pool!
Mid-excavation view from our second floor house window.
Friday it looked like this – all excavated and ready for next week.
Same Friday view from up in the house on the second floor.

That’s where we are now – hoping that some concrete work can begin next week. Stay tuned and let me know if you like this post, want more, or less, I aim to please! Thanks for taking a look.

A Real Life, Golf, Miniatures, & Other Distractions Update – And yes I am alive! and more!

It’s been a very busy time here at home since my last blog post in early June. Some of you have wondered if I had gone past my expiration date. Rest assured, I, for better or worse, am still on the top side of the fairway (or maybe the rough anyways).

This post will be a bit different than the standard fare I usually offer here. Yes, the title of my blog is “Life, Golf, Miniatures, & Other Distractions”. Too often, however, I neglect everything EXCEPT miniatures here. But as I now have a good deal to share on all of these, well, I guess for once I’ll give equal billing. You see, I have been building my Aztec cityscape. It’s a tabletop wargame set up that needs its own (and probably multiple separate) posts.

That is NOT the subject of this post – you did read the title friend?

No, this time instead, I’ll ramble through each of the aforementioned title topics about “stuff” that has gone on in the last month. I’ll share some hopefully interesting photos and a few observations that will (maybe) make you say wow! Or Hmmm! Or Huzzah! Or WTF? Or a combo? Your choices of course. Chuckling is allowed and strongly encouraged

As its been over a month since my last post, sit back and enjoy – I think that I did for the most part.

Life

This section is dedicated to the more important parts and events of my life – you know, the ones that I don’t usually write about. But they are important – and yes, even more important than minis or golf (oh please don’t make me write that again but it’s true). Most of this section is organized chronologically, but not aligned with the other sections – a lot of this is about family, vacations, and food!

Let’s start here with my wife Lynn and I celebrating her birthday back on June 12th. We got a pair of 2.5 pound lobsters and had a great meal at home!

As the pandemic really kept the planet at home, and as I am often remiss each summer in taking my wife to the beach as often as she’d like, I felt that it was important that this year I make an effort – especially as she was to be on vacation – to get her to the beach. Now, she likes Newport, RI, but I’ve always preferred Hampton Beach, NH. And she likes it too by the way – so I’m not a total ass! As her vacation weeks were fixed (I’m always off so no big deal for me), we looked at the calendar and June 28th looked like the only day of her first vacation week that would not be rainy. It also was hot as hell – so, we made the 90 mile trek to the New Hampshire coast.

Looking out towards my UK friends from under my umbrella. You are over there somewhere.
Beautiful day at the beach.
The north end of Hampton Beach.
As New Hampshire is The Granite State, it was nice to see these old rocks at low tide. We were just sitting behind these by 100 yards.
Same area as previous shot. looking at the ocean.

Now please understand, the water here is truly cold – usually not warmer than 50 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 10 degrees Celsius for you metric types). No Gulf Stream here to warm the water. As this day the air temp was 89 degrees Fahrenheit with a slight breeze (that’s 32 degrees Celsius for you metric types) – it felt like we were in a convection oven even under our umbrella. I took a couple mile walk to get the photos and some exercise and despite sunscreen got a (mild) sunburn and a couple blisters from the hot sand! Amazing to experience such heat with such cold water so close. Yes, I know that it gets hotter in other places (and I’ve lived down South too plus some time in the Sahara), but for us this was really hot. Lynn and I decided to head out for the boardwalk and some old (like us) video games, shade, and a snack, and some shopping. Oh yeah, and especially shade.

I think we were fully cooked.

After our little saunter along the boardwalk (which was much cooler), we decided to head out and grab dinner. Years before we met, unbeknownst to either us, both of us were aficionados of Brown’s Lobster Pound in nearby Seabrook, NH. We both had gone there since we were kids. It was nice to discover we had that in common when we met, and have been there every time we went through the area. We always get steamers (steamed clams) and lobsters. It’s a BYOB place, so we grabbed a few adult beverages and grabbed a nice spot on the picnic tables inside and waited for our orders.

LOVE THIS PLACE!
The place does a LOT of business – here is the outside takeout line for fried food.
Always good to park at low tide…
The causeway by the restaurant – soon in a future post you’ll see how it inspired my Aztec causeway colors – but not now! LET’S SEE FOOD!
Start with steamers…
End with a couple of 2 pounders!

That was a fun day. The rest of the week was rainy, to include the weekend. On the third of July, we managed to gather to celebrate Buck Surdu’s birthday…ok, we did not do that… 😁 – but we did get in a belated Father’s Day for me, a partial belated birthday for Lynn, and a day early Independence Day celebration. I got some cool gifts and cards! As it was my second Father’s Day celebration without my Dad, it felt better, especially with family.

Me, my Mom, my daughter Ellen, my wife Lynn, and the cute little one (no, besides me) is my granddaughter Tabitha who is four and a half now.

A week later Lynn and I were again having seafood withdrawals, so we hit a favorite place of ours, Red Crab Juicy Seafood in Worcester, MA (just 10 miles away). It specializes in Cajun seafood.

What a menu! And you can order every special on any day!
Spicy hot seafood, a gorgeous wife, and a Corona!

Ok, enough about food. We have been working on replacing our garage since before the pandemic. It looks like a Dr. Seuss house, only less useful. The previous owner of our house had won the Massachusetts State Lottery back in the 1970’s when it was a $50,000 drawing once a week (now it’s made up of dozens of games and much bigger payouts). He’s long dead now. In any case, my understanding is that with his winnings he bought a new car, one that was too big for his garage. The easy fix for him was to cut off the end of the garage, cut the stringers on the left side, and use scab lumber to extend the garage in both directions. As you will see from the photos below, while his fix lasted his lifetime, it was not going to rival the pyramids.

The garage as seen from our house’s 2nd floor. If you look closely you can see the roof’s deviation at the back where the extension was done. I have spent a lot of effort with a roof rake over many winters trying to keep the roof from succumbing to the weight of snow on this bad roof. Our septic leach field is under the grass and goes right up to the driveway – so a two car garage replacement was not practical.
The electric door still works – but barely. The door itself was shaped to the ground underneath instead of making the ground level. The door panels are particle board and warped due to exposure to moisture. This project will also encompass replacing the driveway, and installing a second floor and deck on the new building. We are also replacing the current deck we have now attached to the back of our house.
Door on side rotting away.
Roof and stringers rotting away.
Here you can see the warped door panels and the siding barely hanging on (I nailed it back on after a winter blizzard nearly took it all off).
The inside is totally NOT critter-proof, and structurally suspect. We have not stored a car in here for years – it’s been a shed basically. Mice did significant damage (>$800) to one of our cars in it, and after that no more was it a true garage for us.
It is a mess. We just emptied it out as the demolition starts soon.
The structure is put together somewhat haphazardly – and again it is a critter home.
The extended area with recycled lumber is shown here – and somehow there is no ridge pole – unless you count that thin piece of plywood masquerading as one.
Structurally, the left side is supported by a huge beam (approximately 7″ x 5″), which supports the weight of the left roof extension as the stringers were cut and sort of renailed together. All that weight rests on a pair of 2″ x 4″s – set in…I think the ground. I can’t see any proof of a footer at all. Again, not built to any code I ever read about.
The other end of the beam is supported by a 2″ x 6″, that also has the wiring coming in from underground…somewhere…probably under the driveway.

Now our good friend IRO is converting a carport into a shed using recycled materials, and is doing a FAR better job than was done with this monstrosity. In any case, it needs to go. We knew we wanted to do something extra here as we wanted some entertainment space and a deck to overlook the pond in back. Before the pandemic, we hired an architect, Lasse Aspelin, to design us a new garage with a second floor and a 16′ x 16′ deck, plus a new deck for the back of the house. We now have cleared the Town’s Conservation Commission, Building Inspector, and Zoning Board of Appeals (not going to bore you but that took a long time – over a year), and demolition starts this week. Here is what we are going to build:

Garage front.

Side view
Deck detail
Second story room
The garage interior. The new building will have all utilities, to include gas, water, and a mini-kitchenette and a bathroom on the second floor – perfect for entertaining.
The new house deck as will be seen from the garage deck.

It’s a big project, but one that will allow us to fully benefit from our home and property for years to come. Plus, now at least one car can come out of the snow in winter! We have hired Ready Installs of Shrewsbury, MA to do the project – and they are working with subcontractors like Andre Cormier of Cormier & Sons out of Fiskdale, MA.

News Flash!! As I write this post, Andre showed up with the excavator and we are excited! He even might let me take the first whack! Have some preliminary silt protection (for the pond) installed and the power cut to the building, but we are that much closer to starting!

The cavalry has arrived – or at least Andre and his excavator!
As stated in Blade Runner, for the old garage, “Time to Die”.

Golf

I play golf at least two-three times a week. 18 holes on Tuesday in a scramble format on Tuesdays, 9 holes of medal play on Thursdays, and 18 competitive holes of some type on the weekend either in the club sweeps or a tournament. I have taken a couple of lessons this year and am making some swing changes which is not an easy process. I have also been hitting range balls at least once a week.

In May, I got fitted for new clubs (my last new set was 10 years ago). I got on the launch monitor and was fitted for Ping G425 MAX driver, 3 wood, and 3,4, and 5 hybrids. For irons, Ping 710’s. Basically, I’m brand loyal to Ping. More on that in a bit.

I played in two tournaments – one was a scramble in the monthly “Tour of the Brookfields” on June 19th. I did not lead my team to victory, as we ended up only -4 (67) and 63 won our flight. It was another rainy and cold day too, so a tough scoring day.

The final scores – my team was in the Palmer flight on the far right at 67.

On July 1st, I got good news and bad news on my new clubs. The good news is that the G425’s finally arrived. The bad news was that the irons would take until mid-August – remember they were ordered in MAY!!

These new sticks were available for the second tournament, the Member-Member at Quail Hollow in Oakham, MA on July 11th. I played with Dan Befford as a partner. I shot a 96 (net 79) so I felt like I could have done better, but the new clubs were a help. We did not win anything, but we did have a good time.

Miniatures

Some of you are saying YES, finally!

Again, I have been working on my Tenochtitlan cityscape components over this timeframe. They will be my entry into Dave’s “Season of Scenery” painting and modeling challenge – but I did get a few things done in June miniature-wise that would not count towards it.

I decided that based on my last post, where I showed the raid scenario I ran at the Mass Pikemen, that I needed a few things made. Both were fairly easy. The first was a cornfield that could provide some nice tabletop scenery as well as potential Aztec cover. Inspired by Chris Rett’s creation, I stole his HO scale cornfield idea and built one for myself.

The JTT Creations corn stalks – I had two boxes of 28 so 56 in total.
I decided to have a blank row between the rows of corn to allow the figures to be place in the field. I used 6″ popsicle sticks and marked 7 holes equally spaced on each for 1/16″ drilling with my Dremel (after painting).
Used Vallejo texture paint and some others to highlight and shade the sticks, then drilled and glued the cornstalks.
Finished cornfield! This is the 15 row configuration with spacers.
I could also leave one space out and do 7 sticks x 2 as you see here.

I also wanted a few magnets for affixing to my steel figure bases in games of Feudal Patrolβ„’ using my Civilizations Collide supplement for the Spanish Conquest. These would be for situations such as loading the falconet, figures losing a shield or a weapon, or just getting away from the leader for any reason (see below).

The magnets I have for my games clockwise from the upper left: figure that is captured and being dragged off, “READY” and “AIM” for falconet prep to firing, “UNARMED” for a figure that drops a weapon or has it broken, “OUT OF COMMAND” for an individual figure that has strayed too far from its leader, “NO SHIELD” for when a figure has a broken shield, and “WEAPON MALFUNCTION” for a sling, bow, crossbow, or arquebus that has a repairable issue.

On June 26th, I took that game (replete with my new magnets and the cornfield)on the road to Great Stories in Uxbridge, MA. There, I reran my rural “Surprise Raid on Outpost” scenario again.

We had 5 players, and the randomness of the setup put the Tlaxcalan archers on the left flank of the defenders. The Aztecs had better luck this time but still fell short of victory due to their incurring excess casualties. You can see a lot of the pictures of the battle here and here (I was too busy as GM to take more than the one’s below):

The raid begins. Even Chris Rett and Mike Paine and Ted Salonich got in the action!
Ryan is happy (his Tlaxcalans did a lot of damage), While Chris is waiting to unpin her Conquistadores – which eventually happened.
Aztecs full of arrows…
The sole Aztec to survive the trek to try to get into melee with the bow-wielding Tlaxcalans!

As a result of this game, I will be adjusting the victory points and making some “BERSERKER” markers.

I offered a raffle prize from my stash and Ryan won it. I wanted it to have a good home.

There was also a store raffle, and I won – and got my grandaughter the Minnie below!

After the game, Minnie for Tabitha!

Lastly, on the miniatures front, I was happy to see a couple of my ideas and posts shared! One was a What a Tanker game shout out (in English) from Naval Gazing, and one was a French post from Small Maya that was dedicated to this blog! Check out these posts! Very nice and thank you!!

As I wrote, as my cityscape is finished, I will start posting about it!

Other Distractions

Ok, I did not know where to put this, but “Other Distractions” seemed to be about right.

I walk a lot for exercise – especially if not a golf day. One of my favorite hats has been a gray “Aussie Chiller” hat that works well for a sunny walk or golf. On a windy day, because it’s one size too big, it can fly off my head in a stiff breeze. I’ve had the hat for several years.

Two days ago, a Sunday golf tournament I was to play in had to be canceled because the course was too wet – we’ve had nearly 5 inches of rain in July and 1.7″ came Saturday night. The weather broke, and I went for a walk with my Aussie Chiller on as the wind was low.

However, during my 5-mile walk, a dump truck drove by and the breeze it made took off my hat perfectly like a frisbee. Unfortunately – this happened as I was walking over the spillway for Lake Lashaway. Helplessly, I watched it land in the torrential spillway’s dead center, never to be seen again.

RIP Aussie Chiller hat.

The watery spillway grave of my Aussie Chiller hat.

I did order another one, but as you can see, they are NOT cheap.

Oh well, until next time dear reader – I now have a month of followed blogs to read!!!

But, as always, let me know what you thought of this post! Happy Summer! (OK Happy Winter Aussies!)