I haven't written much here lately. I wish I could say it's because I've been too busy, but that wouldn't be entirely accurate. The truth is that I'm outta gas, mentally, at the moment.
Obviously, the pandemic stuff has complicated everybody's life. At first those complications weren't so bad; I got to work from home for a few months and life was, relatively speaking, good. Then I had to go back to working in the office full time, making me 1 of maybe 50 or 60 people that have to spend their entire work week in a cavernous ghost town of a building (it normally holds 1,000 people). After a while, the facility's quietness and emptiness starts to become a pretty depressing environment to work in.
A year ago, my original boss retired. So did a colleague. A few months back, my new boss - a former colleague - was fired, as was his boss, and another colleague. Our group was absorbed by another group. More recently, 2 more people in the original group retired, 1 because of the firings and 1 because they were encouraged to do so.
A year ago, we had a 9-person group; today, only 2 of us are left. I've had 4 different supervisors in the past year.
Needless to say, just getting through each workday is mentally exhausting due to the turnover and corresponding requirement to learn new staff personalities, new supervisor visions, and new corporate expectations, all of which are constantly changing. That's compounded by the weirdness of working in big empty buildings. Factor in the time and energy spent each day dealing with 1 dog that's still kind of a puppy and another, much older dog - my righthand dude - that isn't doing real well...putting in a few hours of rehab work uses up about all I have left.
BUT...today is Saturday, it's raining, I'm stuck inside, and both dogs are currently pretty content because they got some chicken gizzards with their breakfast. Might as well try to get a little bit caught up with this thing. So where was I? Repointing brick walls? When I finished up the lower section of the wall I talked about in the last post, I went around the corner and did pretty much the same thing.
This wall had the same stair step cracks, the same evidence of half-assed previous repointing work, and was in the same rough general condition as the section of wall I'd just tackled.
Once I started removing the existing mortar, I realized the wall was in worse shape than I originally thought. Ultimately, I wound up with this:
This wall was in extra rough shape around the basement window; in several locations I was able to remove existing mortar, with minimal effort, to where I could see clear into the basement of the house. If you look by the joists in the pic below, you can see daylight.
With voids that large and with limited chunks of time to knock the work out, the best plan of attack is to address the biggest, deepest areas of missing mortar first and then gradually add mortar, sort of in waves, until all the joints need a final, uniform pass with the fresh stuff. Similarly, when resetting the bricks it's easiest to lay down enough mortar to get the bricks back in the wall solidly, and save the final mortar application and joint shaping for another round of mortaring.
In this case, I couldn't bring myself to stick some of the poorly-shaped or cracked bricks back in the wall so I cut some bricks - I have pallets and pallets and pallets of old brick to pull from - to fit a little better than the previous ones did.
If you look closely, you can see that there's just enough mortar to get bricks back in the wall and held solidly in place. Mortar was added, gradually, in subsequent passes. This method was also employed because the temperature outside was about as hot as it can be before mortar work can't be done; the stuff sets up QUICKLY in 90+ degree heat, so I had to lay down and work small amounts at a time.
With this section of wall I set up some of the new scaffolding I got, and maaaaaan...it's so much easier to sit on the scaffolding and work than it is to work from a ladder. Unfortunately, while this section of wall is completely finished, I don't have any pics of the final product because I jumped right from pointing the wall to tearing down the porch...too lazy to take down the scaffolding just yet. I'd take it down now and go get a pic or two...but it's raining and, spoiler alert, the final product looks pretty much exactly like the wall I posted pics of in the last post...but maybe a hair better. Still plenty of room for improvement.
Since then, I've torn down the porch and started repointing the walls the new porch will attach to. Sooner or later I'll get around to telling y'all about those projects...