Sunday, May 29, 2011

FEBP (front end beautification project)

Moving along with the front end beautification project, I finally started putting clapboards onto the front, and it’s taking a lot longer than I thought it would. I’ve put my fair share of siding onto this house, and thought I had the drill down, but this time around, it’s sort of slow going. Part of the problem is just finding the time, but also, for whatever reason, I keep having to go back and amend my initial plans.

A good example of suffering for being so disorganized, but at least it’s getting done. Another problem that stems from this quality is that I keep running out of clapboards, and they’re expensive. I cannot for a minute imagine siding an entire house with clapboards. It would cost you a fortune.

Either way, we don’t need a huge amount of the stuff to finish the FEBP, just more than I purchased. One day I’ll get it right.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Making Contact

We’ve finally gotten in touch with BS, the plumber, and despite our flakiness and the fact that we dropped the ball, he’s still interested in working on the barn. Whew! Though truth be told, there are a lot of plumbers out there. We asked our friend HH if she was interested in helping, and she said yes, but we’re having a hard time pinning down when and how she’ll jump in, which makes me think she either doesn’t really have the time or isn’t as interested as we thought. The problem is, while we wait for her to get back to us, the barn sits unfinished. I need to take mattes into my own hands, but what else is new?

With this in mind, I need to get in touch with my Mentor. The first order of business is to get that darn soffit in, which won’t be easy. Then we can focus on the plumbing. I think trim and siding will be in the near future, as well as electrical, but one thing at a time.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to dave gostisha for the pic.

Let’s Not Forget About the Wood

We can’t afford to get too complacent over here, the kiss of death, because once you lose momentum and inspiration, it’s all downhill from there. I finally managed to get this Winter’s wood complete, which satisfies my firewood OCD, at least for the moment. My first impulse is to sit back and pat myself on the back, but there are still 7 cords waiting to be dealt with. Granted, the weather has been lousy, I broke my foot (sort of), and the mosquitoes have been exceptional, but excuses are for sissies, and we have work to do.

Of course, I have a plan. I figure if I move 10 wheelbarrows a day of blocked wood, and then try to split wood for at least an hour each day, I should be okay by the time Fall rolls around. At some point this Summer, TB will deliver another 7 cords, and I’d prefer to clear the loading area of any of last year’s wood.

Until then, thanks for reading.

The Barn

We are ready to get the Barn show on the road, but realize we need some serious assistance. While JH and his magic bag of tools can work wonders, he’s got a full time job, and we think we might need someone who can come more frequently. The possibility of HH helping came up, and she’s a professional contractor who is in the process of changing careers. She still has the experience, not to mention the tools, as well. We broached this with her, and she is interested, so it might work out.

Best of all, she could lead this project, which would be extremely helpful. The only problem is, the future is uncertain because she is looking for jobs, and when she finds one, it’s bye-bye to her. Hopefully under her tutelage, we can make huge strides. I feel like once we get over a critical hump, then the project will cruise, but things like this never get easy.

The first steps will be to finish blocking the joists, install a soffit, and design a bathroom so that BS can help install the pipes and we can have plumbing. From there, I’m guessing electrical, and then insulation, drywall, and then floors. There’s also the issue of siding, but that can wait.

It’s hard to imagine at times, but we have complete confidence that this house will get built. Maybe even by next week. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Blueberry Rejuvenation

When we first moved into this house, the previous owner gave us two blueberry plants as a welcoming gift. We put them in the yard, and they gave us nice berries for the first year or so, then they petered out and now we get none. I set out to rejuvenate them, though in retrospect, I’m not sure they’re in the best location. We don’t get tons of sun, so the such a thing might not exist.

Either way, we are in the process of properly fertilizing and acidifying the soil. Actually, the two go hand in hand, since the recommended blueberry fertilizer is in fact an acidifier, as well. Also, after consulting with the resident blueberry expert, CS, we obtained some organic sulfur which acidifies the soil. We are so on fire over here.

The local community group is raising funds to promote their latest endeavor, Edible Landscapes, where they want to decorate the town by planting plants that produce edible fruits and nuts. How cool is that? As part of their fundraising, they are selling blueberry plants, and we got some. We currently have Patriots, and I was told they like diversity, so I ordered two other varieties. However, I ended up getting one other variety, and then more Patriots. There was some sort of miscommunication.

I think it’s fine, but I’d like to get two more plants other than Patriots, and then we’re complete. We have a spot in the backyard where we think we can plant them in a line, and if all works out, then we’ll have ourselves a little blueberry orchard, and in maybe about a 10 years, we can pick our own berries.

This should be good. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Maria Li for the pic.

Yard Work

One thing that was in the back of my mind when we left was the lawn. I figured that it was going to grow a bit out of control while we were away, and sure enough, it did, but not as horribly as I thought it would. Sure, it was badly in need of cutting, but I thought it would be up to my knees by now. On the one hand, the rains encouraged growth, but on the other, there has been no sun, so that worked in our favor. The grass by the barn, which they seeded when they put in the septic, was a bit more out of control.

Now the constant rain that we’ve been having makes it a little more challenging to mow because cutting wet grass is not an optimal thing, but you do what you gotta do, and I gotta cut that grass. It wasn’t as bad as I thought, though, but I think I really need to stay on top of it.

I also fired up the weed whacker, which also, thankfully started up. It amazes me when that happens. I think the whacker will be put to good use this summer, because not only are there plenty of hard to reach places that the mower can’t reach, but we plan to use it to keep the garden in check, if we ever get that thing up and running. With the weather the way it is, planting is hard, and I think the entire area is a little behind in their planting. I also want to keep the wildflower area a little more groomed. I like the wildflowers, but we tend to get a lot of these waist high weeds, and it looks a bit unkempt. We can’t have that, now can we?

One big project we are going to undertake is rejuvenating our blueberries, but more on that later. If we can get that going, along with our blackberries, life will be good. Throw in some fruit trees (cherries, pears, apples), and I think we would have the makings of a pretty cool yard, not that it isn’t cool already.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


You know you're getting old when you get excited about things like toilets, or should I say, fixing toilets? Then again, why not? You use one every day.

We had a ongoing problem with our toilet, as I mentioned in a previous post. I was concerned because you really need your toilet on a daily basis, and even a momentary shutdown is felt by all. The toilet was usable, it just leaked, enough to where I couldn't ignore it.

Finally, I broke out my tool bag and got down on the floor and dealt with it. You know what? It wasn't that bad, just a case of tightening the bolt on the valve. It might leak a drop or two each day, but I'll take that over how it was. Now we have continuous flushing capabilities, and life is good.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Return to Action

When you get back home from vacation, you realize that the world goes on without you, irregardless of whether or not you are there. Case in point, our house, including the millions of projects that are a part of it. While we were soaking up the sun and olive oil of the Mediterranean, things that needed to be done around here weren't getting done. Now why do you suppose that is?

Before we had left, I knew that the lawn was going to be a mess. I had wanted to mow it before departure, but it hadn't really grown enough, so I waited. Upon our return, the grass wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, though it was long. I noticed on the weather that we got a lot of rain while we were away, tons of it, which usually encourages growth, but maybe because there was no sun, it didn't get as bad as it could have. Also, it's hard to mow the lawn in the rain, or even if the grass is wet, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. I had a one day window to fire up the Toro, which thankfully came to life no problem, and I managed to spend the one day since we've been back that wasn't rain soaked mowing 80% of the grass. Boy was I relieved, something about that lawn that gives me anxiety.

The wood for this coming winter is about 98% complete. I'm glad for that, but still disappointed that we dipped so heavily into this year's wood. Oh well, live and learn. I cut the log pile into blocks before we left, which means I now the have the pleasure of hauling those blocks to the splitting site, then splitting them. Since next year's wood is not an urgent situation, I can do it at my leisure and focus on other important matters, like building a barn and finishing projects around the big house. I want to get those clapboards on and painted.

The fact that it has been raining puts a bit of a damper on things, no pun intended. I can't believe this weather, it makes working outside a bit more challenging, but when you're training to be a real man, with greater challenge comes greater reward. The question then becomes, where's the reward? Just kidding.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to RIC for the pics.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Changing of the Oil

We never got to see this firsthand, but in Istanbul, they have the changing of the guard throughout at the royal palace, though they are a democracy and not a republic. Either way, in honor of this, I decided to take the plunge and execute the changing of the oil. Now changing oil is a pretty routine and simple job, but with today’s small cars, the process can be complicated by the intricacies of Japanese motors, plus the fact that the cars are so low to the ground, you cannot get below them.

I experienced this firsthand with the Mazda, which requires a complete rigmarole just to jack the thing up. Upon first glance, it was clear that the Honda was even lower, so it was going to me much of the same.

Naturally, I put it off until the last minute. The new cars boast some new developments where you don’t have to change the oil until about 7000 miles. They even give you an indicator as to when it needs to be done. Not that I like to ignore expert advice (for the record, I do), but how exactly do they know this? Am I to take their information on blind faith?

First off, my brother in law, PR, who is the uber-expert on engines, said that he didn’t care how advanced an engine is, when it’s new, it produces particles from the moving parts, and the first oil change should occur early. I took this info to heart and changed the oil around 1500 miles. My plan is to change the oil every 3500 miles, whereas the manufacturer recommends every 7000. I figure one additional change isn’t a bad thing.

Having said all that, I felt like the time had come. We were just back from vacation, and the rain stopped for a brief moment, so I seized the opportunity. It was actually easier than changing the oil on the Mazda because the filter is much easier to get to, though I still have trouble sometimes getting that darn drain plug out. I need a wrench to use solely for that purpose, but it has to be metric, which throws me off because all of my tools are in inches.

In the end, I got it done, not so much to save money, which when you really get down to it, you’re not. More so to know that there are things that you can do in this world, and it is satisfying to do them. Plus, it saves me the hassle of burning 2 hours getting to the mechanic, sitting around reading bad magazines and drinking bad coffee, just to get something done that I can do in half an hour.

I love when that happens. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Toilet Leak

We have a problem with our toilet, and plumbing issues, like all issues come to think of it, give me anxiety. Something about water in particular that gives me pause, because water is your worst nightmare when it comes to the longevity of your home.

Either way, the darn thing leaks. This was a problem before we left for vacation, and has reared its ugly head more than once in the past couple of years. I think it has reached a head, and may need some serious, if not professional, intervention.

Before we departed for Europe, I simply shut the valve completely, and that took care of it while we were away, but now that we’re back, we can’t really use the toilet, and that toilet is the most frequently used one in the house.

Time to take action. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to István Benedek for the pic.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


I lied, here’s one more entry. I finished the wood, and managed to stack this Winter’s pile to about 95% completion. I ran out of time, but I’m happy with what was accomplished.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

More Progress Before Departure

I just may accomplish my goal of cutting the wood pile before we leave, but even if I don’t, I’ve gotten far enough along so that I would be satisfied. I’ve been cutting like crazy, and if you can believe this, I’ve managed to get most of it done in just a week. That’s cutting just for a few hours in the AM. By noon, I have to cut out and make lunch, or it gets too hot. Also, we had really heavy rain one day.

My point being, I think I can cut up 7 cords of wood in a week’s time. Of course, I could probably do it sooner if I had nothing else going on, but that’s another issue.

Speaking of wood, I’ve been stacking as fast I can, also, and am about halfway finished with replenishing this Winter’s wood. The pile was already about 80% complete, and that’s wood that, by the time we use it, will have cured for 2 years. We had to tap into it last Winter’s supply because I am still learning over here. Either way, I figure that if I replace the wood now, by the time Winter comes, it will have dried enough. I will start burning at the other end of the pile, so by the time I get to the newer wood, it will be around February, which will have been about 10 months. Until I figure out the optimal amount of wood to stack, that’s as good as it’s going to get.

I also finished tuning up the lawnmower, which entailed replacing the blade and air filter, changing the oil and then firing it up. It amazes me how dull the blade gets from just cutting grass, though I’ve nicked a few rocks here and there. I had some concern that it wouldn’t start, and was prepared to haul it off to Joe’s, but it worked. I was elated. I even considered mowing the lawn before we leave, but decided against it. We have too much to do. I will say this, by the time we get back, our lawn is going to be a jungle.

I think this will be the last entry on this blog until we return, so for now, be good and thanks for reading.