Sprucing up the house (Or is it firring?)

Every year my mom has a lovely Christmas tree at her house. She and dad usually pick one out from a tree farm the day after Thanksgiving. This year, though, they are several states away, and we decided to get a tree ourselves.

Unfortunately we didn’t get out soon enough. Our tardiness combined with the terrible drought this summer meant pickings were slim at the tree farm.

We walked for an hour or two looking for “the tree.” We never found one that was altogether perfect, but we did find a nice small one that had no dead branches or brown needles.

Yoli and the girls got it decorated Tuesday evening. Yoli had also taken some free scrap branches that the tree farm was giving away. On Wednesday she used them to make a wreath, and on Thursday to decorate the mantel over the fireplace.

Here are some photos of how it turned out:

Josh christmastree

Yoli christmastree

IMG 1285

Stories from Yoli: Inside the box, right side up

Most nights when I come home from work, Yoli has stories to tell about what the kids were up to. Stories of mischief, of cuteness.

Today is the tale of the girl in the tall box.

Now that we have drapes in the house, we no longer need some of the tall, empty boxes we had been using to achieve a modicum of privacy. But Yoli set aside one particularly large, tall box so the kids could use it as a play house for a while.

Today she cut out some windows, turned it longways on its side and let them have at it. Jadzia and Ludi were monopolizing the box, not letting their younger siblings have a chance to go inside. Eventually Jadzia got tired and went to do something else.

Later, Yoli noticed that Ludi had been quiet for some time. That usually means mischief is afoot. Yoli went looking, and found that the box had been turned right side up (vertical). Guess who was inside?

“I can’t get out,” Ludi said pitifully, sucking her thumb.



When tasked with creating new entrances to a historic Tube station in central London, Terra Solutions faced some of the toughest technical challenges possible for a trenchless install. In developing the new Bloomberg place, and to reduce peak period congestion on the Waterloo and City Line at Bank Station, complex subterrestrial works had to be executed to upgrade, expand and develop the station and its connection corridors.

The commuter connection to the new Bank Bloomberg station required the construction of two passenger tunnels which linked the new Bloomberg Building to the ‘live’ Waterloo & City Line of Bank Station.

Bank station serves five major Tube lines, as well as the Docklands Light Railway, These types of trenchless works start from the landward side drilling to a sea location using gyroscopic steering equipment like heavy drills and cranes to transport and install them which somethings get damage from this, so having a crane repair service of quality is really useful in this business. Biodegradable drilling fluids are used to minimise environmental impact.  making it one of the busiest stations on the London Underground network. As well as these transport systems, central London also has one of the most densely populated subterranean infrastructure networks in the world.

Located in a conservation area, surrounded by Grade 1 Listed Buildings (including St Stephen’s Church, Walbrook and The Mansion House), and above an ancient Roman Mithraeum the local geography presented many sensitive receptors. However, the most significant factor was the many passengers within the underground during the sensitive tunnelling works.


The original planned construction technique was Sprayed Concrete Lining (SCL), however Terra Solutions were forced to reassess the viability of this technique when differing ground conditions were reported in previous unseen piling logs at the early contractor involvement stage. Terra identified that SCL would not be applicable in this instance due to a band of gravels which was significantly shallower than previous site investigation indicated. A different tunnelling method was recommended to the client i.e. Square Works Tunnelling.

Two passageway adits were necessary were to be constructed perpendicular to the existing corridor, allowing for access to the existing station and network from the new development. The finished clear opening dimensions of the two adits were to be 2400mm x 3324mm and 2400mm x 2646mm. As the superstructure was being constructed concurrently with the adits, the only access to the works location was through two material hoists further complicated with size and weight restrictions.

The chosen Square Works technique, which incorporates timber heading construction, was employed to temporarily support the ground while excavation works were carried out. The permanent works concrete was then cast inside the temporary square works supports which enabled breakthrough to the existing station.

After exhaustive planning, work could commence. The first task was to remove the concrete soft eye of the basement structure in stages. Test coring discovered the soft eye to be on average 800mm thick, instead of the 500mm originally indicated, meaning that saw cutting was no longer a viable option.

Terra Solutions switched to stitch drilling the entire soft eye into 1m x 1m blocks using Hilti DD-350 coring rigs and 127mm ø cores. Once each section was fully cored, 6nr. 48mm bursting holes were cored and the Darda hydraulic concrete burster used to break the concrete. The concrete was broken down further, using the Hauser H11German Jiggers and removed by hand. The exposed ground behind the soft eye was boarded, using C24 graded 9” x 4” timber, and grouted immediately.

The same process was repeated until the whole of the concrete soft eye was removed with steel whalers installed across the boards to hold them in position.

The next stage required excavation towards the extrados of the existing tunnel segments of the Waterloo & City Line. As progress was made, both side and top frames were installed. The adits were tunnelled in four main elements with the soffit, left wall, right wall and base all being sequenced to maintain ground support and integrity of the existing underground tunnel.

Significant steel beams were installed in the soffit to support the overburden and bespoke steel lintels were fixed to the existing tunnel lining to support the tunnel prior to creating the opening.

All the steel work was cast in the permanent works concrete along with waterproofing (Re-injectable grout Tubing & Water Bar) & reinforcement. Bespoke shuttering designs were required for each of the pours all of which provided no access for compaction, therefore a ‘self-compacting’ concrete mix was adopted. Ready-mix concrete lorries delivered the concrete to an access point on the street which was then fed into a static concrete pump line than delivered the concrete down 5 storeys over a distance of approximately 200m to the adit locations.

Waits and measures

Maybe waiting is the measure of a man. We have done our share of it.

Today, I daydreamed back to a sweltering Bolivian night eight years ago when we made pizza for Yoli’s family and I got down on one knee to propose. Not many days afterward, I boarded a plane bound for St. Louis.

I knew we would be separated for a while, working in two countries on the paperwork to obtain a fiancee visa. But I didn’t know how long.

How long turned out to be nine months. At the time I called it ‘the interminable wait.’

It seems to me that the waiting was hardest at the beginning (where the elation of getting engaged was followed by the loneliness of returning home alone) and near the end (though we never had a clear idea of when exactly “the end” would come).

My mind wandered, remembering those months of waiting, then returned to the present. I thought of our eighth wedding anniversary, just around the corner: Nov. 22 and 24.

But even sooner, I thought, our family will move back into the little brick house that was shattered by the Good Friday tornado.

Then it struck me: we have gone through another “interminable wait” this year.

In some ways it’s been harder. There was little joy at the outset, except maybe the solace that comes from knowing nobody was hurt and many of our possessions could be saved. There were so many unknowns: how do you pick a guy to cut down your tree? We chose one, and it went badly. How to choose the best mudjacking Denver to fix driveway? Our temporary housing moved us farther away from all our usual places. We couldn’t walk Jadzia to kindergarten as we had planned, nor could we walk to the farmer’s market, or the bank, or the library.

But in some ways it’s been easier. Yes, we were separated from our house — but not from each other. We’ve been in exile, together. The rental house where we’ve lived was actually bigger than our own home, though it lacked some things (dishwasher). Our friends and family rallied around to help us. And our wait has lasted only six months, not nine.

Still, there’s no getting past the waiting. As with our engagment eight years ago, we had a vague notion of how long this reconstruction process would take. But the ending proved to be elusive. We would get close, and things would drag out.

At last, though, the finish line is in sight. Today our little house was full of people: cutting tiles, running pipes, painting walls, tracking in mud.

Tomorrow our long-stored belongings will begin to arrive at the house. Before the end of the week, we hope to be sleeping in our own beds again.

I would like to think that this “interminable wait” helped us, strengthened us inside.

Time will tell.