Friday, April 10, 2015

Father's Day Offensive, 2015-Battle of the Lattice

It was a dark and blustery December afternoon.  Rain was actually falling here in Northern California and lightening was crackling periodically through the dark grey skies.  The wind whistled and howled.

Hunched over pages of graph paper with hundreds of linear, lateral and horizontal lines filled with trapezoids and octogons, I sighed as the fire cackled.  I wasn't sure if that was on the natch or if it really was laughing at me.

I looked up from the massive mess of geometric design and decided the fire was behaving itself.  How could it know what I was thinking, anyway?  Then I looked at my lovely wife and asked, hesitantly, "You want this when?"

A lightening bolt pierced the marauding sky.

The last time I was involved in a major home remodeling offensive was when we first bought this place.  New paint, floors, appliances, fixtures.  It was a howling battle, I lost fifteen pounds during the eight week melee. 

Then there was the time at the last house we owned.  There was something about the living room and family room that just wasn't sitting right, like the furniture, the walls and the floors, so my lovely wife decided four weeks before Christmas they needed to be remodeled.  We had company coming.

It was a blitzkrieg, an all hands on deck ten bells to the stern bow tree frog sort of thing.  Somehow I managed to accomplish it all.  Of course, professionals did the flooring, but I did all the demolition and painting.

The demo on that one was an all out brawl.  Dividing the entry way and the living room was a waist high 2'x4' brick planter.  It was the first thing you encountered when you entered the house.  My lovely wife wanted that gone.

The old brick planter hadn't seen a plant in a while.  A mirror had graced it's top since before we arrived on the scene, a mirror that would have been a big draw back in the eighties.  If you know what I mean.  Since it was made of prized used brick, I originally thought I would just tap tap tap them out with a rubber mallet so that I could reuse them later.  After a few tap tap taps with nothing at all moving, I figured it was going to take me a couple years to bang the thing into submission.  I didn't have that kind of time.  So I opted for a larger, more imposing eight pound sledge hammer.  Instead of tap tap tap I went wham wham wham.  Shards of brick and mortar flew, and dust rose from the battle scene like smoke from an alcoholic bachelor's old burning sofa.

By the way, a word of caution.  If you are taking an eight pound sledge hammer to task INSIDE of a house, best to make sure all your nice, fragile stuff is tucked away and covered.  Or, as in my case, the room was bereft of everything, including old carpeting.  Oh yeah, remember to paint AFTER your demo, not before.

When nightmares of my last major offensive had subsided, I learned the upcoming deadline for the current blitz was on June 20th.  I had a little time this time, The Father's Day 2015 offensive was underway!

A brazen attack was the only way I saw possible for this old man to accomplish the mission laid out before him.  Holy cow.  Most folks would need an army, but this Major Kernal is going to endeavor to try to accomplish the insane.  Inanely on his own.  It's been done before, why not give it a go one more time?  While I'm still young.

The Father's Day Offensive is going to be a ten prong exterior improvement attack near in and around this old homestead.  The old dry rotted deck needs replacing, the retaining wall needs some dressing, another retaining wall must be built, drip irrigation installed, a courtyard designed and outfitted, a clothesline erected, a short privacy fence built and then some form of drought resistant ground cover that's easy on the toes needs to be planted. 

This whole bag of tricks will also include a couple hundred foot long 8 foot high fence across the front of the property, as well as a solar powered remote controlled driveway gate.  That part of the project is courtesy of Bambi and her vegetation decimating ilk.  Yeah, those flea infested varmints, them dang doe eyed deer.


Prior to much of this, however, a pretty hefty pre-landscape bombardment of dropping trees and moving lumber needed to fly.  Thank goodness I had one of my able and strong nephews lending a hand for much of that hefty heavy stuff.

A couple of the oaks, which were dying, were up at the top of the property.  Fifty footers with lots of branches.  The most direct route down to the firewood staging area was dropping them on to the future back lawn area.  Why not take them down before and spare the hassle of repairing divots the size of an accordion later? 

The other area required a couple oaks come down prior to the fencing going up.  Makes sense to drop the trees now, before the fence is up rather than drop the trees and the fence at the same time later.  Know what I mean?

I also had to run another sortie during my initial attack.  I needed to run about 100 feet of PVC under the future "lawn" area.  This will allow me to set up three strategically placed hose bibs.  Those will, of course, allow me to run a hose from those locations.  However, I am going to primarily use them to set up timed drip water systems.

Ole Stupid over to the plumbing supply place what threw away my diagram when he should have been making sprinkler plans motivated me to change my mind.  Screw him.  I decided to make five or six zoned drip systems instead. And guess what, I'm buying all my supplies anywhere but at his store.

My nephew and I did the trenching and the PVC is in as well as hose bibs.  It went well, primarily because my nephew did most all the trenching.  We ran the underground line, then I went back later to install the angles, bibs and run the line to the top.  This is a summertime only draw and will be shut off during winter and colder months.  I am not concerned about top side exposure.

Next up was this.  mess.  below.

That old retaining wall right there used to surround (on two sides) an above ground pool.  I cornered it off with some wire fencing and have used it as a garden and nursery for the last couple years. 
From the house and deck vantage points, you could see the old pump house as well as Bernadette, our newer rain water basin.  Since the old retaining wall partially hides a few of these essential but eyesore necessities and it is still in good condition, I decided to add a little razzle dazzle to the existing wall.  To that end, I mustered some of this lumber and deployed as necessary.
First I added eight foot redwood 4x4's to every other existing retaining wall post.  I did this by first drilling holes all the way through the 4x4.  Then I attached the 4x4 to the post by ratcheting in 2-seven inch lag bolts.  The process looked a lot like this:

Once the posts were in I made lattice frames with 2x4's nailed in at the top and then screwed in at the bottom.  Once those were in I attached the lattice.  Sorry, sometimes when I really get involved in battle it's hard to stop and take extenuating photographs.  All you're left with is the finished product!

I'm not quite finished.  I still need to attach arbor arms at the corner, plus I am still waiting on the redwood 2x2's from the lumber store.  Those will go four out across the top to help add a little definition between the horizontal and vertical.  Eventually both the lattice and arbor will be covered with some sort of fragrant, flowering vine.

The garden and nursery will soon be moved out from behind their protective fence.  This will be done when the front fence is complete.  I have already dug 15 post holes by hand that I will need for the front 4x4's.  I  also spray painted the initial coat of paint on the 24 or so T-posts I will be pounding in on the other side of the drive.  Basic black will look a little bit better than agricultural red.  Or green. 

A lesser part of the driveway gate phase will be the delivery box I need to make that will sit on the property but outside the gate.  This way FEDEX and UPS won't have to contact us, they can just drop stuff off.  Unless, of course, it's a wild animal from Borneo or something.  Then we'll probably need to be home.  The box will probably be 2x4' and a couple feet high.  It will be strategically located so as not to be visible from the main road.  Both the new fence and gate locations will allow for unfettered propane delivery as well as a safe, off road turn around locale for the delivery persons. 

Besides digging the post holes while the ground was still somewhat moist and soft, I also pounded in about 20 of those T-Posts this last week.  Just like ducks in a row.  My timing was good, the ground was like butter.  However, it was still work.  I'm beginning to discover this homestead experience is nothing but physical.  Who needs a gym?

I have also done most of  the excavation along the back cliff where the block retaining wall will be going.  Might as well get 'er done while the ground is somewhat soft.  Less work later.  That dirt went over where the other recently erected retaining wall was built.  Apparently when I live on a hill retaining walls seem to sprout up like a white rabbits from a ragout.  Once that is done I can bring all the oak firewood up for final bucking and staging.

When am I going to give me a break? 

Who's idea was this, anyway?

Next up was the old, dry rotting back deck.  It was getting dangerous.
I demo'd that a couple weeks back with the assistance of another aging AARP hippie.  We did the work of a couple twenty year olds that day.  Felt like a couple eighty year olds that night.

That was done next because our fabulous son-in-law, the scientist, wanted to get his carpentry on and help build the new deck when the time came.  And a couple weekends ago was the only time we had available within our conspiring latitudes.  That will all be covered in a forthcoming post.

Once the deck is done I will begin in earnest on the front fencing, as well as shoring up the surrounding existing hillbilly fencing.  Once the perimeter is secure, then I can move the plants out of our future "courtyard" and begin dressing it all up and making it look nice nice. 

Part of that plan is to get rid of the other end of our existing clothes line, that hillbilly looking chin up bar down yonder.
Then I will be installing a regular looking clothesline, a 2 T-Post five line drying bonanza.  And a little privacy fence.  So you won't see our underwear when you drive up.

Very soon I will have forays extending into all intended target areas.  Now if I could only remember my name.

Utah's Place

My lovely wife and I are heading out tomorrow on a little road trip over to the coast.  The first blog post from this excursion will be "The Ft. Bragg You Never Knew."  Guaranteed to be a page turner!

Prior to leaving, however, I was a little flummoxed as to what to do with the bevy of 3 dozen eggs we had on tap.  And, with our flock currently delivering 6 to 8 fresh eggs a day, there appears no end in site.  Until it gets hot.  Then those little fair weather layers will turn to sulking and hanging out in Lake Capon, jabbering and complaining about the heat, and forgetting all about why they are on this planet in the first place.  

So I was listening to our local community radio station, KVMR, this morning on the way home from the dump and they had on a very nice lady who was talking about the donations needed at Utah's Place, our local hospitality house's homeless shelter.  And even though she didn't mention eggs, who the heck doesn't need some farm FRESH eggs?   Especially when they don't even know it.

And that's where they went.

Fowl Update

As I previously mentioned, our flock of ten laying hens is producing 6 to 8 eggs per day, which isn't bad considering 5 of them are entering their third year and theoretically should be laying less.  That's why I've wanted to add a couple three or four chicks every year until I get up to a maximum flock of 20.  That way I should be continually introducing new and productive layers every year.

So "Chick Days" at our local favorite feed store, Ridge Feed and Supply, happened to be on the weekend we worked on the deck, when the grand kids were up.  While the men folk worked on the wood pile, I sent the women folk to the feed store to pick up 2 or 3 chicks.  I mean, how fun can this be for a five year old girl?  And her Mother?  And her Grandmother?  This is what they brought back:

Do you, um, see more than 2 or 3 chicks in there?  Me too.

Moral of the story: send the girls to pick up a couple chicks and they go, "Golly, they sure are cute."

So anyway, we now have 6 chicks in the brooder.  A Gold Lahenvelder, a Wellsummer, A Silver Leghorn, an Australorp, a Silver Wyandotte and a White Rock.  They will blend in very well in a few more months with our other 7 breeds.

Variety, love that spice of life.