Monday, December 1, 2014

Wilson Picket My Fence

"Idle chatter makes my mind wander."

I just came up with that, unless somebody else did.  You can use it if you like.

It's kind of funny how projects get started around here.  There's a hundred or so on the burner all the time; front, back, center and medium rare.  Hell, there's always going to be projects, we live in the country.  Who's bright idea was this, anyway? 

One of the ones on center stage this year has been the picket fence that frames our front lawn and is a standard for our sunset views.

A few of the fence posts had rotted as had several of the laterals.  And many of the pickets were suffering from a variety of maladies.  Yeah, this project was going to be a big one.  But before I get going too much here, I think we need a little Wilson to get this Picket post rolling along before we gets too far into the Midnight Hour

So I had been cogitating my method de repair and how best to attack this picket beast for a few months.  And as I was cogitating, which I can be prone to do especially when looking at a rather long and dubious situation, my lovely wife was given a cute cat statue that will situate by the potting shed, where the picket fence ends.  Or starts.  Depending on your point of view.

While the cat statute looked really clean and cute, the fence looked pretty shabby as did the potting shed.   I hadn't really touched either one because I knew this day would be coming.  And with the arrival of the cute cat statue the game was on.  Good thing I had been cogitating.

Near as I could tell, I needed to replace 4 posts.  As I got entirely too intimate in picket fence land, I discovered a couple more needed to be replaced.  Fortunately they weren't all together, so I was able to retain some of the picket/lateral action which ultimately helped me retain the level.

As the posts came down, a number of the laterals also needed replacing.  The previous owner really hadn't done anything with just about everything around here for a decade or so, let alone the picket fence.  There was A LOT of deferred maintenance, and this little area really needed some attention.  

The potting shed, another focal point for the front yard, is a bastion of mysteries.  The inside, where I store my chain saws as well as many other macho outdoor tools, is pink.

I think the place started out as a playhouse for a little girl, and then as she outgrew the joint he tried to paint it to match the house.  Sort of.
You'll notice he didn't quite finish the trim on the sides as well as the rear of the structure.  So the new trim color will be white to match the picket fence.  And the body of the shed will become the butter cream yellow the house will eventually become.  Not only did homeboy choose an asinine color for the house, when he eventually painted the shed he did it bass ackwards.

Plus that roof needed major attention.  When I removed the moss I also noticed a small amount of dry rot along the gable ends, or the edge of the "A" you see at the top.  This happened because homey did not allow for any kind of overhang over the edge, nor did he flash the edge.  No, I'm not talking about him wearing a raincoat and then exposing himself to structures, I'm talking about the placement of an "L" shaped strip of metal that slides under the roofing material and then hangs over the top of the fascia.  We'll get back to the roof later.

The first move in any home improvement situation like this is the demolition phase.  As much as I would like to use either some C-4 or the backs of a couple strapping young bucks, I usually have to get out the pick and shovel myself.  A pry bar and a hammer.  And a bucket for all the lethal hardware that comes my way.
All those keen and macho tools are mostly stored in the pink room, in case you wanted to know.

Any time I do demolition that involves hard sharpened steel is to remove that threat toot sweet.  There's too many tender paws around here, like mine, and the grand kids, that really don't need an encounter with a rusty nail.  So after I get a section off, I remove all the nails I can find.

In this little gambit, and I did not remove all the pickets or horizontals, I yanked out a couple hundred nails.  Homeboy tapped in 6 to 8 nails at each end of the horizontals I removed.  I used an "L" bracket with a couple screws when I replaced them.  Less metal and they're sturdier too.

Once I had pertinent laterals and pickets removed, it was then OK to launch into removing the posts, which were all in concrete by the way.

So I attacked my first post.  I dug, and I pried, and I sweated, and I toiled.  Thirty minutes later I had dug down about 3 1/2 inches.  By that time I said the hell with it and filled my partial hole with water.  To be addressed the next day.
You notice that PVC right next to the concrete up there?  Yeah, that thin white line?  That part of the front lawn sprinkler system?  The one I put my pick through?
Well, it turned out another ten inches and it was the end of the line.  So I quick clipped the end and put an end cap on it.  Once that area of the fence was complete I went back and added another 6 feet or so on to that clipped end and put in another sprinkler head.  That area had not been getting an adequate amount of water from the system anyway, so I had inadvertently unearthed an advantage.  Or made lemonade from an errant pick stab. 

I went back the next day and with my heavy duty six foot long pry bar I easily maneuvered that concrete out of the hole.  Five minutes.  Then I dropped in my new post, tossed in some concrete, leveled it and let it sit.  I moved on to the next, and eventually had a couple posts drying at the same time.

While all this was going on I was also contending with a lot of malnourished fence pickets.  Without paint for a decade (or more) many of the pickets were dry rotted and split.  Some I was able to save, some had to be tossed.  I set up a little picket hospital for the ones that could be saved. and as I labored over the posts and horizontals, I also mended a few pickets every day.  This involved gluing long cracks, clamping them and also patching many holes.  I needed me some Mustang Sally by this point in time.

The front yard was a pretty chaotic scene for a while, with all sorts of commotion going on.

But once it was torn apart, things got put back together relatively quickly, over the course of a week or two.

Once the laterals were up, the pickets were lined up and put up, with screws, just like ducks in a row.  A lot of 'em.  Quack quack.  A friend asked why I didn't go with new pickets.  Two reasons:  One was cost.  There's a lot of pickets on that there fence, like 235.  If I replaced half of them at Home Depot's price of $2.59 each I'd be looking at $303.00.  But since these are older pickets and hard to find, I'd have had to replace them all.  If I did vinyl it'd cost around $928.00.  But cost was not the most important part of the equation anyway.

You all may (or may not) have heard of the latest decorating trendy type situation, "shabby chic"?  Well, that's motus operandi around here.  I make things looks nice nice and then I have to mess it up a little.  A bash here, a ding there.  That sort of thing.  Makes my lovely wife happy.  What can I say?

So my process was to essentially make the entire fence structurally sound but then still retain a little of the aging luster.  I was able to replace the 20 or so pickets that were tossed with extra pickets from the picket bone yard.  Homeboy had about forty feet of extraneous picket fencing up around the place, and when I removed it I was able to retain many of the parts and pieces, just for an occasion as this.  Many of them have charming knot holes, a little bend here and hiccup there.
After all the pickets were up I blasted everything with a pressure washer, and then went along and methodically caulked and patched all the trim and holes.  Along the entire fence.  Yeah, it was a project.  Basically I wanted to make sure no water could get in between the pickets and the laterals.  That's where the majority of dry rot would be found if left open, so I closed it all off, one picket at a time.  It was a lot of fun.  I'm kidding.

Next, utilizing an airless sprayer I picked up at a garage sale last summer for $40, I sprayed all the trim on the potting shed.  Prior to painting, I removed the moss on the potting shed roof with a rake.  Extending way beyond my physical mass and potential.  Then I sprayed it with weed killer.  A new black comp shingle roof to match the main house will becoming shortly.

I thought it would be a great idea to use the sprayer on the fence, but I quickly discovered half the paint was heading out into the atmosphere.  There, uh, apparently was a lot of space in between surface area(s).  I ended up painting the fence by hand, taking about 45 minutes per section.  That, too, was a lot of fun.   Just kidding.  Where was Tom Sawyer and his fellas when I needed them?

That part of the job, the fence painting part, was interrupted in mid October when my appendix, Uncle Wiggley, decided to burst.  And boy, was that a lot of fun.  Again, kidding.  That little diversion set me back a good two to three weeks. 

I started painting the fence again a couple weeks after surgery, taking about an hour and a quarter per section this time around, or about 30 minutes longer.  What can I say?  There was a hole in my bucket and the wind had torn through my sails.  And my hair was all undone.  And I'm certainly not getting any younger.  Shorter, but not any younger.

 Then I started in on the shed, one side at a time.

My lovely wife suggested the planter boxes be black, you know, accent.  So I added a little razzle dazzle and painted them black.  Which reminds me of another song.  And in the meantime, while several other last minute pushes for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday were being attended to, I was also tossed a somewhat beat up classic weather vane, which would adorn the potting shed roof.

You may notice a few holes in the round ball thing a ma bob. Thing.  No doubt placed there by a non well intentioned pre-pubescent 12 year boy with a BB gun.

I bent the metal around the holes as best I could and then got out some old fashioned "Bondo" to fill in the remaining holes and valleys.  Works on cars and wood floors, right?  Why not weather vane thing a ma bob  things?  Then I sanded it down to a relatively unevenly smooth finish.  Next I broke the weather vane down so that I could paint it.

Once all the potting shed painting was complete, then I added the brick landing in front.  Without that it would get quite muddy right in front of the door.  Rain would also splatter mud and gunk up on the recently painted front.  I simply couldn't have that.  And once the planters had been painted, they certainly needed some plants.  With deer netting all around of course.

Notice how nice the cat statue looks now?

Even though the new roof will be forthcoming in a couple weeks, my lovely wife wanted the newly refurbished weather vane up so that the multitudes that will be descending for the Thanksgiving Holiday can "oooh" and "ahhh".

It's actually level and compass sighted in for optimum actual functional display purposes.  Held in by 4 lag bolts with a little Henry's Wet Patch underneath, it will come off quite quickly when it's time for the new roof.

With a little luck I shouldn't have to revisit this project for another decade.  Hopefully two.  And by that time, I'm sure as hell not going to be too motivated to dig up any rotten posts.

You know, a lot of folks have asked if I'm going to name the fence.  I mean, how silly.  I only name highly relevant and sometimes irrelevant things, like my kids, gold fish, ankles and appendix.  Although, now that I think about it, there is a logical choice, Wilson.

Animal Update

Our flock of fowl birds is doing fine.  Most of them have been molting, which is like shedding, only with feathers.  And since it takes a lot of protein to produce feathers, egg production falls during this process.  And since they already slow down laying in the fall and winter, we're like getting only 1 to 2 eggs per day right now. 

The other day a week or so ago I decided to lock up the flock a little early, like around 4:00 PM.  With it getting dark earlier now, they're all pretty much perched up around 5:00, but I was feeling lazy and decided to put 'em in early.  As I started walking up, I noticed the hens were getting a little agitated and were all conglomerating in one corner of the pen.  That's usually not a good sign.

Then I noticed a larger than domestic gray feline sitting on it's haunches at the back gate.  Initially I thought it might be one of our girls, they're getting their winter coats and are getting quite fluffy.  And then I remembered they were both in the house.  As I approached the cat retreated, fairly quickly, but not before I identified it as a Bobcat.  Who I believe was lookin for a little snack.

Fortunately, the flock's day time pen has a six foot high fence around it.  I'm sure the Bobcat could have gotten in-the Ringtail did-but not too easily.  And fortunately, I interrupted his flock salivation perusal by coming out a bit early.  If he had gotten in I'm sure I would have lost at least one hen before I got the alert.

Speaking of fluffy kittens, Daisy and Lilly are adapting quite fine.  They both sensed the loss of Joey, and seem to be settling in to their reign.

Hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday.