Saturday, March 31, 2012

Knobs On Our House

Since we were on a tear with the door knobs, I thought it was a great opportunity to put new door knobs on our own house. I’d read that it’s a good idea to at least re-key the doors to a house that you buy, because when you really get down to it, the previous owners probably still have a key to the house. Not that I don’t trust the previous owners, and let’s face it, it’s been over four years since we moved in.

The truth is, we’ve been having door issues. The mud room door knob is a bit tricky, and everyone has a hard time using it because the key gets stuck and it only works in one direction. The front door is a complete fiasco, and that door is virtually unusable because of the catch is damaged. You could open the door, but forget about closing it, it takes a monumental effort that literally rocks the house to its foundation.

I installed the new door knobs on both doors, and voila, we were suddenly in business. Not only do we have snazzy new door knobs, but we can actually use the front door. Part of the problem was the catch plate was so warped that the door couldn’t latch on. With the new hardware, it works beautifully. I was so stoked.

Now all we need is a new French door deadbolt and latch, and we are good to go. I sure do love when that happens.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Seeding and Feeding

In years past there is still ice and snow on the ground, so the grass is not accessible, but this has been a crazy winter and spring. Not only is there no snow, but it got really warm a few weeks back, though now it’s cold and windy. Either way, when the weather was nice, I decided to do some seeding and fertilizing. The main goal is to get the front grass (actually, all of the grass) growing nice and green without the use of chemical fertilizers or weed killers. Nasty stuff, just to get your lawn to look nice, especially if you get your water from a well. Somehow all that time, money and effort to make your lawn flawless seems a bit misguided, but that’s just me being a prig.

I have grass seeds left over from last year, I got the big bag from Whites, and I used it up. Truth be told, the grass is looking okay. I was hoping that constantly seeding, the grass might one day overtake all the weeds. Here’s to wishful thinking. I also fertilized the blueberry bushes, which are the other big horticultural challenge in my life. I know the first ones we planted, or rather transplanted, I did everything wrong, and they were on the brink of extinction before I did some intervention. I don’t know if I was in time, but I sure hope I was.

When we got new ones from the local gardening club, I tried to do it right this time around. This meant peat moss, acidic fertilizer, and acidifying the soil, finished off with some acidic mulch. It’s way too early to tell how they’ll do, but I can see buds on all the plants, even the old ones, so you just never know, do you?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to प्रतीक for the pic.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tackling the Door Knobs

In an effort to make KB (and for that matter, my Mentor and brother-in-law PR) proud, I’m making a concerted effort to get the jobs that have been left for me done, ad so far, so good. I cleaned the barn, relatively speaking, so the electrician was able to get his work done, and I ripped that rough cut wood and nailed them into the kitchen walls.

One of the tasks that was giving me a bit of pause was installing new door knobs. As I mentioned, I was a bit overwhelmed when I went to Home Depot and that was a bit of a fiasco, there were too many darn choices and I couldn’t find any of the actual items. I had a better experience at LaValley’s, though I’d like to mention that the customer service at HD is really good, it’s just that store is huge and I tend to get lost. It’s great if you know what you’re looking for, but when you don’t, smaller is better.

As LaValley’s, they had a good selection and it was manageable. Plus, they helped me out a lot. They’re knowledgeable and helpful at LaValley’s, you just don’t always get warm and fuzzy service. Either way, we found what we were looking for, and it worked out fine. Plus, the prices at LaValley’s are definitely competitive with HD, and I was helped by H, who is super nice and mondo helpful.

Now I never knew how this all worked, but you can get all the locks you purchase adjusted to take the same key, they do it all there for you at the store. I’m guessing HD will do the same, though I can’t imagine how that would work. At LaValley’s, the guys helped me find the locks, and then she took them in back and keyed them all the same. We brought them home and were ready to install.

The kids wanted to help, but sometimes this gets to be a bit of a drama because I tend to make things difficult, especially when tackling new assignments. This drama increases exponentially when things don’t go smoothly, and I’ve found that with installing doors, things often don’t go smoothly. Putting in door knobs is pretty easy, but when I put the first one in, the thing didn’t line up and the door wouldn’t close. Now my first inclination was to get frustrated and mad, but after some careful examination, I could see what the problem was, and all it took were some minor adjustments to where the door frame plate was screwed in, also known as the “catch.”

I feel really bad when I lose patience with a job or get frustrated around the kids, but in a crazy way it’s become a bit of a joke between us, and thankfully it doesn’t scare them away from wanting to help or take part. That would be a big-time bummer, and rather than be thankful about that fact, the real solution is to work on my feelings of frustration. I’m definitely getting there. For the record, it doesn’t always help when you’re trying to do something new and the kids are tearing around the barn on their scooters, but that’s all part of the fun of being a parent, right? It’s good when you can find humor in these things.

In the end, we got all the door knobs in, though I realized later that I still need one more because there is a door on the second floor. Oh well, that just means I get to go to LaValley’s again and talk real-man talk with the pros. It’s much easier the second time around, or in my case, fourth or fifth.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Attaining Peace With the Door Knobs (almost)

We’re almost there with the door knobs, and I have LaValley’s to thank for that one. The selection at Home Depot was overwhelming, and as I mentioned, I couldn’t find anything I wanted on those shelves. I went over to LaValley’s and H was there to help me. We made some choices, I got a better sense of what our options were, and I took that information back home to R and we talked it over.

We decided on a certain pattern and color, but found out that it would require a special order. That’s not a big deal, but there were a few things to consider. First off, and this speaks volumes to me, but getting special order door knobs meant more cost. For all four knobs and deadbolts, about $100 extra, not including the freight charge they stick you with. Plus, special orders are final, no returns. Like we experienced with windows, if you can choose among their stock items, you save money and have more flexibility.

The reality is, the difference between what we chose and what they had was completely negligible. More importantly, they had the color we wanted in stock, so it was a no-brainer. That, and the fact that they’re just door knobs, as long as they look decent and work.

With this in mind, I think we’re a step closer, if not on the verge of getting the hardware. This translates into one step closer to inner-door knob peace, and you can’t take that for granted. At least I can’t.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to RLGarlick for the pic.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Nailing It In

After ripping those boards, I was raring to go on the next big project, which was nailing them in. This turned out to be quicker and less dramatic than I thought it would be. I thought it would take me days, like everything I do, but it only took a couple of hours, max. All I needed was to set up my miter saw, measure out the pieces, cut, and nail.

It was actually nice to do some framing- nailing, it’s very satisfying. You pound the nails with all you have, and it goes quickly. Plus, I get to use my real-man tools, especially the framing hammer, which is a beast of a tool.

Two jobs down, three to go. So far, so good. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, March 26, 2012


There is a problem with the walls in the kitchen because of how they were originally framed. Because the studs are not flush with the foundation, one of two things needs to be done. Either the studs need to be extended out to meet the concrete, or when the time comes, the kitchen cabinets will need to be specially cut to fit in the notch. The decision was made by those in the know, (translation: not by me) that the easiest thing to do would be to extend the studs, and the best person to do it would be yours truly. Don’t you love when that happens?

This would require ripping eight foot lengths of rough 2X4s. KB said the wood was wet and my table saw probably wouldn’t be able to handle it. Hey, don’t talk about my table saw like that. The alternative method would be to lay the boards out and rip them with a rotary saw. The problem I have is that I am completely incapable of cutting in a straight line with one of those things. The table saw would be quicker and easier, it’s just an issue of power.

HH said I should at least give it a try on the table saw, and I’m inclined to agree with her, so I did. The boards are heavy, too, so it was going to be a challenge. I had N there to assist, and let me tell you, he helped a lot. Having another set of hands made a huge difference.

In the end, the saw worked beautifully. I was elated, not only because the job is done, but because my little Ryobi table saw did the job. I love that thing. Next up, nailing the boards, but the hard part is done, and like everything in life, it wasn’t as bad as I had built it up to be.

Quick side note, when working with a table saw, which scare me more than a chainsaw, you want your hands in contact with the wood as little as possible, because that blade is constantly spinning. People usually use a notched handle to push the wood forward, which helps to hold the piece down as the length extends forward. Not having such a tool, I came up with the brilliant idea to using a big wrench, and it worked fine, but our electrician stopped by and advised me not to use metal because if it hits the blade, it wouldn’t be pretty. I knew this, and was being careful, but it was embarrassing, nonetheless. He was cool about it and fashioned a special handle out of scrap wood. He even broke out his jig saw and fashioned a little handle, how cool is that?

I’m not sure when I’ll rip boards like that again, but at least I know my saw can handle the job, and I now have the proper accessories.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Traumatized by Door Knobs

KB told me to pick out some door knobs, which meant going to Home Depot and making some choices. Naturally, this filled me with anxiety and dread, and to top it all off, I failed miserably (I can sense my Mentor shaking his head). Now in my defense, there were dozens of choices, which in and of itself is ridiculous, but then I had the hardest time finding the actual pieces. This was complicated by the fact that N was sitting patiently waiting for me, and I felt bad because I had been dragging him all over town running assorted chores. I think it would be better to go by myself next time.

Either way, it wasn’t pretty. As I mentioned, it was hard enough just coming to a final decision. In addition to choosing a style, I had to choose a color, tone, and type of finish. R mentioned she’d prefer just your basic round doorknob, and to maybe go with a metallic tone. Of course, most of the choices were gold or brass, and few silver and round ones looked like something you see in an office building.

When I finally found one that was sort of close to what I thought we were looking for, I couldn’t find the actual piece in the shelves. It seemed like they only had some of the selections available. I was about to find someone to ask for help, which is no easy task in HD, though their customer service has improved dramatically, when I decided to forget it and get out of there. I was either going to have to bring R along next time, or go online.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to sctatepdx for the pic.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

First Order of Business

I’ve been given my marching orders from KB, and the first thing that needs to be done is clean, clean, clean. I have to confess, I was a little embarrassed about the mess in the barn, as I think I’ve alluded to in the past. I think cleanliness and order are things more appreciated by women, but not so, especially amongst professionals. They want their work areas orderly, not just because of professionalism, but because it’s safer to work in and it makes their jobs easier.

Anyway, KB left it up to me to clean up a bit. He’s got better things to do with his time, and we’ve got better things to do with our money than pay him to clean. The barn had become a bit of a dumping ground for building materials and things we wanted to protect from the elements. We are talking lots of building materials, not to mention a dozen windows that were originally installed in the unit.

The reason the place needed to be cleaned was because the electrician needed to come and finish the wiring, and to do that, he needs to have unobstructed access to all the walls. My first thought was to just pile it all up in the middle of the floor, but the look on KB’s face screamed, “Just deal with it like a man, you sissy.” Shame on me, right?

Now that hockey season is over (note the emotional crack in my voice), we suddenly have time. Plus, since we’re not doing the market (tears of joy), we’ll have time to take care of issues on the home front. With the clock ticking, there was no time to waste in getting this barn finished. So, we spent the last day or two cleaning up. Mind you, the barn is not all clean and orderly, I did manage to clear the walls by putting stuff on pallets outside and then covering it with plastic. Not ideal, but it’ll do for now.

We also disposed of a lot of wood waste by having a burn pile, which is always a lot of fun for the kids. Something about a bonfire that just pulls them in. We don’t do it the real-man way with one huge conflagration. We instead opt for a small fire that we feed throughout the day. It’s more fun this way, and not as scary. Plus, a small fire doesn’t require a fire permit.

We are on our way. I still have several other jobs to do, but just getting one done makes me feel like a real-man already... sort of.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to donger for the pic.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Feeling the Weight of Spring

I know that spring is a time for flowers and butterflies and all that good stuff, and I really love the change in seasons up here, something I never really experienced in So Cal. However, with the arrival of spring comes a whole slew of work that needs to be done. I don’t even know where to begin, so in typical fashion, I simply ignore it and hope it’ll go away. Usually it doesn’t go away.

In addition to the barn project, the snow/ice has pretty much melted, leaving the grass to start doing its thing. Before that can happen, however, I need to do some major raking. I hardly did any last year because we had this crazy early October storm that covered everything, making it all but impossible to rake. Fine by me, though I’ll suffer the consequence now that it’s spring. Once that’s done, I’ll have my regular list of lawn activities, including seeding and mowing.

I’m not sure what the status is of our garden, but I’m thinking we’ll pass this year and support the local economy, instead. I’m just not a gardener, though I play one on TV. I’d rather leave it to the local farmers and support their efforts. Their stuff is so much nicer, anyway. At some point I’m going to have to cut up the seven cords of log length wood and split it. Ideally, I’ll at least get it cut before it gets hot, because it’s a bummer running that chainsaw during the peak heat of summer.

It looks like I’ll have my work cut out for me, but that’s how we like it over here in Vermont, right?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to CubaGallery for the pic.

Clock is Ticking

Almost a week has passed and I haven’t done a thing that KB asked me to, the guy is gonna kill me, or even worse, relegate me back to sissy status. Then again, I don’t think he really cares, he’s got too many things on his plate as it is, and he’s currently busy over in Quechee with another gig, so I’m not even sure when he’ll be back, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve got things to do.

Some of the things I need to do are a bit daunting, and may require that I use real man tools that intimidate me, but other things are pretty straightforward and only require me to take the initiative and have a spare chunk of time, which isn’t easy to find in my life. That, and the fact that I hate cleaning.

Oh well, no excuses, right? Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Earls37a for the pic.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Barn Status Update

If you can believe it, the barn is cruising along. It’s amazing what a difference professional help can make, in pretty much all facets of life. Thus far, the walls and doors have all been framed out and the pipes are all in. In fact, KB has even connected the water main to the barn, so the plumbing is live. We have the toilets, but still need to get bathroom sinks, which we’ve been sitting on for months (we should be sitting on the toilets). Eventually we’ll have to deal with the kitchen, which could destroy me, but like all real men in training, sometimes you just have to deal with it.

The electricity is almost all wired in, there was just a problem with too much junk obstructing access, which has since been resolved (thank you). The electrical boxes have mostly been installed, and the wiring is up next. One problem that I didn’t think was an issue is the main wire leading to the barn. Apparently it’s too small to accommodate a dwelling, and now we’re going to have to run a bigger line over. This involves digging a trench, which I’m told is not a huge deal because it only has to be a couple of feet deep. Easy for a professional to say.

Either way, what has to be done, has to be done. Once the electrical is all done, we have to insulate, and then the drywall will go up. After that, I’m guessing the floor will get done, and then we have to think about kitchen cabinets. Yikes, tell me it isn’t so. How the heck do people design their own houses? It’s way too much to think about.

Just a side note, the insulation estimate came out outrageously high. Granted, a really accurate assessment would require that they come out and take measurements, but the rough number they gave me was well over $10,000 for the spray foam. No way, Jose. KB seems to discourage fiberglass, and on the one hand I understand, but our house is insulated with fiberglass, and it’s drafty but comfortable enough. We don’t need perfect insulation, especially with a boiler and wood stove. This aspect of the barn will be interesting. I only know spray foam ain’t gonna happen. I personally think fiberglass, but that’s the frugal side of me. I don’t want to argue too much with KB because he’ll beat me with his Estwing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to nail in some joist supports, something my Mentor told me to do two years ago. If he’s reading this right now, he’s saying to himself, “I hate to say I told you so, but...”

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Real Man’s Work

KB has been working hard at the barn, and it’s moving along like I can’t believe. While I am not actually involved in what’s been happening, and believe me when I tell you that a lot has been happening, I can still report on what’s being done. Plus, I’ve been given a list of jobs to do by KB, and when you’re training to be a real man, you can’t let established real-men down when they give you a job.

With this in mind, I have a few weeks to accomplish said goals, and there’s no time to waste, especially in light of the fact that I tend to work at a snail’s pace (lots of wasted time daydreaming of being a real man). Not having a clue contributes greatly to this phenomenon. The first order of business is to get some door knobs, and of course when I went to Home Depot, there were about 1000 choices, so I left empty handed. Typical.

Next, I need to clean up the barn. Since it’s been laying dormant for so many years, naturally it’s become a storage space for assorted projects in limbo. What’s truly amazing is the amount of junk you can collect over a few years. There are tools, gas cans, windows, blocks of wood, sheets of plywood, etc. The problem I face is where to put it. Normally I just move things around to make space to work in, but since the barn is moving towards becoming a home, temporary fixes won’t do. What I’ll have to do is get a bunch of pallets, which I thankfully already have, and lay the big stuff on it outside the barn, then cover it with a plastic tarp. Eventually the stuff will either get used or sold, but until then, I need space, or should I say, KB needs space, especially along the walls to put in the electrical.

I also need to rip these eight food 2X4s into 2 inch strips to extend out the wall. This is a pain, aggravated by the fact that the wood is wet. KB said my table saw is probably not strong enough to do the job, and I might need to rip it by had. Bummer, the table saw makes it so much easier, though the wood is heavy and the cuts are narrow. I asked him how I can tell if the saw is too weak, and he said the saw will start smoking. Yikes, was he kidding? Sometimes contractors like to give neophytes like myself a hard time. Then again, as I’ve found throughout life, you hear all sorts of stuff, but you never know until you try. With this in mind, I’ll try the table saw and see what happens.

Next up, I have to nail in the rafter brackets, which I was told I needed to do about three years ago by My Mentor. He recommended getting a nail gun, which would make my life much easier, but when have I ever tried to do things the easy way? Besides, nail guns are kind of serious, and not only do they scare me, but I need a compressor as well. By the time I round all that stuff up, I could just nail the darn things in. We’ll see.

Finally, I have to rip sheets of blue board and fill in sections of the wall before we insulate. KB keeps calling these sections something and I forget their names, so I can’t tell you exactly what it’s called. Ripping blue board is pretty easy, it’s foam board, after all, it’s just that it makes a complete mess. Fortunately, the weather is warming up, so I can work outside... in the mud.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Return to the Barn

The barn project has come back to life, thanks mainly to KB. The original plan was for me to do as much of it as I could, which basically meant that nothing got done, or rather, some things got done, and it took 4 years to do them. Not very high marks on the progress front.

We finally broke down and I had to accept my limitations and the fact that I just couldn't do it. As much as this hurts my male pride, I have to confess, it's pretty impressive how things get done when you hire a professional, and it gets done right. I love when that happens.

For now, I'm going to start writing more in this blog even though a lot of the progress and work isn't being done by me. That's beside the point, and I will have a hand in certain things, so it's not completely without merit.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.