Friday, December 31, 2010

Screwed Up

Over the Thanksgiving holiday when my PR and RR were here giving me real-man pointers, I was embarrassed by the fact that I was severely deficient in my screwdriver collection. Come to think of it, I'm fairly deficient in a lot of things, but let's not go there. There have been many occasions where we've needed screwdrivers of various lengths, widths, and flavors, and just didn't have them. It is during those moments when you realize that man cannot live on white bread alone... whatever that means.

Anyway, PR didn't make issue of it because he was just being kind, but deep in the back of his mind I'm sure he was thinking, "You #*$#* sissy, get some tools, will you?" How could I not take action?

So when I was over at LaValley's, I picked up a screwdriver set, and it wasn't that painful, i.e., not that expensive. I love when that happens. Now I have a screwdriver for every occasion, and the next time PR or RR is over, or when my Mentor or JH and his magic bag of tools stops by, when they ask me if I have a narrow long-necked flat-head screwdriver or a short necked Philip's head, I can say, "Why of course I do." (I don't know what they are called)

I can't wait.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Not So Soft, After All

Isn't it funny how things work out? Just on the heels of complaining that I'm getting soft from lack of activity, and suddenly we get two feet of snow and I'm out there sweating bullets shoveling and hauling wood.

Not that I'm complaining, I'm not. It was awesome getting the snow, and I feel like we need more, but I am out of shape, and it took a bit before I was breathing normally shoveling the white stuff. You can see how people have heart attacks doing that sort of thing.

It was a workout, to say the least, but in a good way. Plus, now that I've burned a few calories, I can go have a few extra cookies after lunch.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Getting Soft

Since Winter is upon us and there aren't as many outdoor activities, I'm finding that I'm getting soft as I sit around doing nothing. Combine that with all of the holiday eating and the fact that we haven't had a really strenuous karate class for about three weeks, and I'm starting to feel like the Pillsbury Doughboy. Something's gotta give.

In all honesty, I could do some working out at home, it's just that I've been laid up with this death-cold and haven't really felt inspired, but time for making excuses must come to an end. I could always go out and split some wood, but I did not prepare adequately for the holidays. I should have cut wood blocks and stacked them in the woods. Then I would have had some wood to split over the Winter.

As my kids always tell me, should've, could've, would've, but didn't.

Oh well, live and learn. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Betsy Ray for the pic.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Wimping Out On the Oil

I was ready to change the oil on our new Fit and went to Gerrish to get the official Honda filter, though I opted for oil at Autozone, where I got yet another filter with the oil change special. So now I have oil, two filters, and extra gaskets for the drain plug, I’m all set.

However, as I look at all that snow on the ground and think about laying in it while I get covered in oil, I decided to take it into our mechanic to have it changed. Sure, I’ll pay about twice what it takes to do it myself ($35 vs $17), plus I’ll miss out on the satisfaction of using my own two hands, not to mention losing real-man points in doing a real-man’s job, but sometimes you just have to let someone else do the job.

For all it’s worth, many of my real-man role models take their cars in to change the oil, so I don’t feel so bad. Justification? Sure, but sometimes a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, especially a real-man in training.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Firing Up the Chainsaw

I have all sorts of obsessive issues with our chainsaw and lawnmower, and now, of course, our weed whacker. The experts keep telling me that modern gas is bad for them, and some say to drain the gas to keep your carburetor healthy, and others say emptying your tank will lead to rust.

I will say this, it can lead to a waste of gas. I’ve been told not to use gas that’s more than 30 days old, but a friend of mine who’s a logger says he’s used oil that’s a year old.

Maybe degradation of your carb is inevitable, but I’d like to minimize this effect, so with this in mind, CH, my sensei in karate, who also happens to be a logger, but a hardcore one who climbs trees with chainsaws strapped to his waist, said the best thing to do is just fire the machines up regularly, which I’m going to do.

That is, of course, until I get some new advice. Until then, thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Excavator Thoughts

I know it’s long after the fact, but I just wanted to share some thoughts on DC Excavating. For the record, they did a great job, came when they said, and put the darn septic tank in. They were the most professional and gave us the most thorough and timely estimate for the job.

Then, two years passed before we were ready to start work. Again, they were ready to do the job and professional about everything, even though they deserved to be skeptical about us. When the time came, they showed up and started working on the job.

One complication was that since two years had passed, life was different, and things had changed. First off, the price of materials had gone up, so they had to revise our estimate. Secondly, we changed the plans, which would require more materials and time, and therefore cost.

Fair enough, though the new estimate came in about $2000 higher. I realized they needed a lot more pipe and insulation because we changed the location of the tank, but it seemed excessive. Then again, we’d put off doing this for two years, and just wanted to get it done.

I spoke with my Mentor, and he said that the original price for the system was really low, under $5000, which I was told was unheard of for a septic system, though anything over a hundred dollars makes me sweat. They were also going to do a job that I assumed I was going to have to do, and wasn’t looking forward to. This was cutting a hold in the concrete foundation so the septic pipe could enter the house. I was not looking forward to that one.

Anyway, we ran into complication after complication such that we finally had to revise our plan one final time and put the septic tank in its original position. This meant that all the extra pipe and insulation were not going to be needed, which I assumed would bring down the price. Plus, since we weren’t laying the tank in the back, it would mean less work.

Now granted, we struggled with where to put the septic tank pipe, and DC and JF were helpful in giving us advice and suggestions. They ended up cutting 3 holes when in fact we only needed one of them, so there was extra work in filling them in.

My only thought was that the end price was not that much lower. I realize supplies went up in price, but it seemed like a lot less work time and definitely less in supplies such that I figured it would make a bigger dent in the original estimate, but the final price was not much lower than the estimate, though it was lower.

In many ways I can’t complain, they did a great job, finished in a few days, and were very professional about it. Also, the overall price was a fraction of what septic systems usually cost, but that stems from the fact that it was a small system and we have good soil.

I guess I’m just voicing my confusion, and in the end, can’t fault DC and associates, they did the job and now we’re ready to move on. Then again, when you’re working with contractors, you are at their mercy and can’t really make issue of their claims because they’re the pros, right?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Possible Electrician

We've solidified our plumber on the barn project, and had an electrician who stopped by and knows my Mentor and was willing to do the job, but that was a year and a half ago, and I've never really spoken to the electrician since then.

So, I'm guessing that means anythings possible. I'm saying this because I've met several electricians in this town recently, all of whom are licensed and do freelance work, so they would be for hire. I like the idea of someone local and maybe even someone I know, but that does not always work out for the best.

Either way, I have some names in mind. We'll see where this one goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Emiliano Spada for the pic.

Not Much Going On

So sorry for my absence, but we haven't been doing too much on the home front because it has been too cold/snowy/rainy or we've been sick as dogs, so we end up laying around and not getting much of anything done. In fact, I'm still sick, and I must be going on week 4 by now, but enough of my sobbing.

We are still in the process of working on the barn. Now that the septic is in, and I have some thoughts about Dan Clay Excavating which I'll share later, but now we need to connect with plumber, order the supplies, and start plumbing. I'm not sure if we need framed walls to do all that stuff, but I'm assuming he'll let us know all about that.

First and foremost, and my Mentor is going to laugh about this one, is we have to come up with a plan for the bathrooms, something we slacked off on in the beginning and suffered dearly for it. Once we have a layout, B can give us a sense of what is possible and what is not, then give us a list of things we'll need to buy. Once we've got them, I'm guessing we'll start installing them, which is a crazy thought.

That will segue into the electrical, which lead to siding, and then internal framing and the floor. Yikes, do we even want to go there? Of course we do.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to melissa ricquier for the pic.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Clapboards in the Winter

It’s cold and snowy out there, but I still plan on doing some outdoor activities as part of real-man training. Two things come to mind. First, the clapboards on the FEBP. Since I don’t need to paint them, they’re already primed, all it would require is cutting them and nailing them in. I’m ready. Then, in the Spring, I’ll paint them, though we’re still undecided on the color of the house.

The second project is that pile of wood. The chainsaw is primed and ready for work since I used it to cut that beast of a maple log. I’ve been storing it in the basement, so it’s not too cold, and now I’d like to cut up some of those trees. Part of my goal here is to have really dry wood, but maybe I’m just being too OCD about the whole thing.

With that in mind, maybe I’ll let the wood sit there and deal with it next year. We’ll see.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Maple Slabs

Just wanted to mention that we have these beautiful maple slabs and they should make for nice counter tops. Thanks again to CT, what a great guy. The slabs are 2 inches thick and about 10 feet long. With 9 boards, that's about 90 linear feet of wood that would cost an arm and a leg at a mill.

Hard to imagine.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Milling Logs

As luck would have it, the one day that CT and I decided to mill the logs, we finally got some snow, which of course turned into freezing rain and sleet. I wasn’t sure if CT was up for doing it, but like all real men, he wasn’t going to let bad weather stop him from running a saw mill. To add to the joy, he said he had a splitting headache and because of it couldn’t sleep the previous night. Who cares about a little pain?

Well, I was still (and still am, for that matter), sick as a dog, but I couldn’t be too much of a wimp in front of CT, he wouldn’t stand for that. Besides, with Winter practically here, at some point he has to put the mill and the excavator into storage. BTW, CT has a virtual treasure trove of grown-up male toys. He’s got an excavator, a 10-ton dump truck, a one ton, a saw mill, a tractor and a splitter. The guy is stocked, and what is truly amazing is that he actually built the mill, which is a band saw, and the splitter with his dad. Crazy. I was thinking PR would appreciate the work that went into that.

The first thing was to determine which logs were going to work. Our initial assessment, which was confirmation of what the logger DS said, was that only one of the maple logs was going to be useful, and the other two were rotting too much. However, to his credit, CT was willing to cut the others and at least have a look. The cutting took awhile because the maple is so incredibly hard, but eventually we worked our way through them and ended up with nearly ten beauiful slabs of 2 inch thick maple board. They are all about 16-20 inches wide, so if I rip them into 12 inch boards, we have some pretty nice pieces of wood, perfect for counter tops in the kitchen of the barn. I can’t even imagine how much all that would cost if you bought it through a lumber yard, I’m grateful to CT.

Also, in typical real man fashion, CT was not willing to call it a day until the job was completely finished. Usually, when I start doing something, as time ticks away, I just want it to be done, and start cutting corners and getting sloppy as the end is in sight. I”ve noticed with working with guys like my Mentor, PR, and JH and his magic bag of tools, when you begin a job, you work through it until it’s done. Wow, talk about inspiration.

I figured that we would cut the slabs and leave them on the ground and at some point I’d come over and haul them to our house, but CT started loading them into his 3/4 ton truck and brought them over. Even at that point, to make it easier on him, I said to just leave them on the ground in front of the barn, but he insisted on carrying them into the barn to protect them from the elements. This way, they would properly dry, and won’t freeze together in one massive block. He even showed me the proper way to space them so that they’ll breathe. What a guy, I’m grateful.

Now we have the wood. The pine logs are still uncut, but they’ll have to wait until Spring, but I’m not complaining.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fluorescent Mania

I don’t know if this is a Vermont phenomenon, because this state is very eco-friendly and has all sorts of tax incentives to embrace green energy, but fluorescent bulbs are dirt cheap over here. $0.99 a pop, and they are making all sorts of alternatives to the incandescent bulbs. I got a flood bulb and they are making them look like regular bulbs, kind of.

Sure, in certain instances only an incandescent will do, but the more lights you can replace, the better. Right? Plus, you can put higher output bulbs which actually use less juice, which is a beautiful thing.

Thanks for reading.

Electrical Madman

Now that I’ve been inspired by PR and JH and his magic bag of tools, I decided to get crazy and do some electrical work myself. I’m so into it that I even have a bag devoted exclusively electrical tools and supplies, it’s the smaller one next to my real-man tool bag. I’m like a walking version of LaValley’s Building and Supply.

Anyway, I had a problem with the switch to the outside patio light. We were doing some painting and I removed the face plate, and left it off for a couple of years. I’m not sure why, but people asked if there was a problem with the electrical system and why I hadn't put it back on. I finally decided the time had come to put the plate back on, but of course I screwed it up and used the wrong screw, which was way too long. I ended up screwing it in too hard to the point where I couldn’t get it out. The rivet that held it in came loose and suddenly the screw wouldn’t come out.

I was going to have to remove the entire switch, which would entail killing the breaker, which in turn would require figuring out which breaker controlled the light. So many hurdles to overcome.

I found the breaker, and figured I could keep track of the wires by replacing them one at time. In other words, I would loosen on connection and immediately connect it to the new switch. Now this is the part you’re going to love. I got the new switch all hooked up and realized I put it on backwards.

My first thought was (after deciding I couldn’t wait for JH to save the day or for the next visit from in in-laws) that it might not matter. I thought I'd heard RR say (why don't I pay better attention?) that hooking wires backwards in certain instance didn’t matter as long as a circuit was completed. However, I wasn’t sure if this applied to switches, and it was easy enough to unhook the switch, flip it over and reattach the wires.

I did that, but this time around did not keep track of what wires went where, and I was suddenly faced with a switch in one hand three wires that all look the same. For the record, there were two blacks (the switch turns on two lights) and no white wires, it was gray. I sat for a few minutes before I finally deduced which wires were which, and I went for it.

I hooked it up, turned on the breaker, and voila. Let there be light. I couldn’t believe it, I did an electrical job, and neither PR or JH was there to hold my hand, which I would have preferred, but it wasn’t an option.

Now we have a new switch. I just have to put a plate on this loose wire (it was for speakers) and then the wall will once again look normal, sort of.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

I Can Run, But I Can’t Hide

I was so thrilled to have those darn logs off the property, that I almost didn’t care what happened to them. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, the guy whose property I unloaded them on does care. In fact, I saw him the other day at the library and he said, “Hey, you big loser, what’s up with those logs you left in my front yard?” I tried to play dumb and say, “What logs?” That, however was not going to fly.

He mentioned that it was best to mill them before it snows, so the sooner, the better. I’m thinking next weekend I’ll go over there and we’ll cut some boards. I have no idea what I’m doing or what I’m getting myself into, but what the heck else is new in my life? Besides, when life is familiar and predictable, where’s the adventure?

Until then, thanks for reading.

Suffering From My Ignorance

Between PR and JH and his magic bag of tools, I was primed and ready to jump in head first and install the porch lights. I had the trim squares cut and ready, and I even cut out the holes in the sheathing and had the electrical boxes installed.

It was the wiring, however, that threw me for a loop. I figured that each light would correspond with one wire, each with a hot, cold and ground wire. Well, when I went to check it out, one of the lights had two sets of wires. I immediately broke out into a cold sweat and my brain ceased to function. Why the heck were there two wires? I should have asked PR when he was here.

Naturally, I went into default mode and ignored it, hoping it would go away, or at least until JH and his magic bag of tools showed up. Fortunately, the moment arrived only a couple of days later. I helped facilitate the process by getting everything set up, and JH came in and cleaned up.

He actually explained to me why there were two wires going into one light, and suddenly it all made perfect sense when you think of electricity as a circuit. In fact, JH was really nice about explaining it, but in the back of his mind he was probably thinking, “Man, were you born stupid, or did your parents beat you with a stupid stick?” If I could have overcome that one barrier, I could have done it, I could have been a contender, but alas, it was not meant to be.

Fortunately, there are people like my Mentor or PR, and of course, JH and his magic bag of tools to come in and save the day. Next time, however, I’ll be ready.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Front Door Insulation

I finally managed to glue in the foam insulation on the front door, and like everything else in life, it wasn’t that bad, and I wondered what took me so long to do it. Part of the problem is my neurosis. The tube of glue says, “WARNING: contains polyethylene glycol, use in well-ventilated space.” The vestibule is not well ventilated, and I can’t really work with the door open, so I worried about exposing everyone to toxic fumes.

At some point, however, I decided to heck with it, this has got to be done.

It turns out that the glue wasn’t that bad, at all, and it doesn’t take much. I glued the foam, and even used some fireproof spray foam to seal the electrical boxed for the patio lights. My original plan was to spray expandable foam in the gaps and then insulate with fiberglass, but I have some serious issues with that foam. The spray nozzles always clog, or in my case, it breaks. I was so bummed. Every time I work with the stuff, it’s a pain in the neck, and this time was no different. I ended up caulking the gap, instead, and didn’t deal with the foam.

Hopefully my Mentor, PR, or JH won’t disapprove, but if they do, it wouldn’t be the first time, nor would it be the last.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.