Joe Abbott's Weblog

Letters home to mom

  • Stuff posted on these days

    April 2017
    M T W T F S S
    « Mar    
     12
    3456789
    10111213141516
    17181920212223
    24252627282930
  • Meta

  • Joe Abbott Musings

  • RSS Cat Cartoon w/o the Cartoon

    • Coda
      Posting these cat-cartoons-without-the-cartoon was a long journey that I don’t know if I’ll repeat soon again. A daily blog is tough … even when you have your material handed to you! But, I couldn’t have done it without the artwork … Continue reading →
    • December 31, 2011
      Father Time is riding out his last few minutes of being the temporal keeper for 2011; he sits in an easy chair with a calendar showing “Dec 31” behind him and a grandfather clock pointing to the time of 11:53. … Continue reading →
    • December 30, 2011
      A happy young lady shares a table at a tony restaurant with her cat; they both wear festive, cone-shaped party hats. The woman gaily says to the tuxedoed server, “One martini and one glass of milk.” The cat does not … Continue reading →

Archive for the ‘Home projects’ Category

Bee house

Posted by joeabbott on March 13, 2017

Last year I built a mason bee house and it came out pretty good: six-sided with a clever roofline to shelter the bee tubes. But, this year Suzy bought a block with slots cut into it that the bees will use to lay their eggs. The good thing about these blocks is that you can split them apart easily to remove the bees and clean them, and then re-assemble and you’re ready to go for next year. The bad part about the block is that it wouldn’t fit the clever six-sided house.

So, we built a new one.

While the new one is a little more boring (just a rectangle with a gable roof), it came out well and I thought I’d bragger-tell you about it here.

Boards

I went to Home Depot and picked up a half dozen fencing pickets that were mostly clear. As pickets, they were about 5.5” wide and many of the boards I’d need would be 8-10” … and even a 12” wide board for the back. So, after planing them down, it was time to glue them up!

WP_20170121_11_54_24_ProWP_20170121_12_44_39_ProWP_20170121_14_39_36_ProWP_20170121_11_54_29_Pro

WP_20170123_17_31_35_ProMaking parts

I typically make things with all the same dimensioned thickness. That is, if I’m using 3/4” boards, everything is 3/4” thick. This time I decided that my 3/8” boards were too thin for some uses but would look great for walls and the back. So, I took a couple of the boards and glued them together, face-to-face.

With these thicker parts, I’d be able to make a bottom that had more weight and looked good, as well as create a roof that had interlocking parts, ensuring the sensitive bees in cocoons wouldn’t get wet from all the spring Seattle rain.

The picture to the right shows how I ensured the parts got good clamping pressure: add a lot of clamps!

Assembly

WP_20170205_13_53_31_ProAfter that it was assembly time and, with as cold as it’s been in Seattle this season, we brought the project onto our kitchen table on the chillier days.

WP_20170205_13_53_39_Pro  WP_20170208_05_51_52_ProWP_20170219_12_34_30_Pro

WP_20170222_10_07_09_RichFinishing

We weren’t sure if we wanted to put a finish on it. The joints were solid (see the picture to the right … it also shows what I meant by having an “interlocking roof” … rain is not getting through that!), and the wood would age to a grey that matched nearly all the other cedar in our yard.

But, we argued that if we wanted it around a long time, having a finish would be the best way to go. So, we chose a spar varnish but avoided finishing any of the interior parts where the bees might go. We weren’t sure if it would be toxic to them, and it wasn’t worth the “science experiment” to find out.

WP_20170222_10_07_52_Rich

I don’t have a lot of pictures of the finished house (with finish) but the two pictures below show how much even a simple, clear finish will make the grain pop and really give wood a warm, wonderful look.

WP_20170305_15_28_07_Pro   WP_20170305_15_28_02_Pro

Coda

And that’s it! A simple bee box that took nearly two months to complete! There’s a tiny bit more to the project in that I built a thin, removable panel that I can wedge into the top triangular section below the roof. It has a small hole at the bottom that will allow bees to crawl out and fly off, but it’s not big enough to let something like a bird eat the larva.

Thanks for dropping in and checking out another mason bee house!

Posted in Home projects, Woodworking | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Speaking of books …

Posted by joeabbott on March 10, 2017

WP_20170305_14_45_21_ProFor about 10 years now, Suzy has been compiling our annual photographs into a “best of” printed volume. The books are 100-ish color pages of glorious us. Yup, we have all these images digitally; yup, we lived that life so there’s nothing new here; and, yup, it’s just a photo album … but I look forward to paging through these every time I find one on a coffee table or on the bookshelf.

I’m not sure what makes these books special; as I noted, we have the digital images. But, there’s something about the tactile quality you can get paging forward, dropping back, and seeing the various instances of our lives in a curated fashion. And it’s not the many thousands of pictures you might get clicking through something on a computer or flicking through them on your phone: they’re just the select, best-of moments that are special in so many ways.

Take for instance last year. Suzy chose a picture of me in the bed of my new-ish truck, arms wide, grinning madly at a tilted rhododendron we were about to plant in our new property. New truck, new property, a plant that a buddy gave me that will grace our new home for years … and that smile that says, “I’m enjoying life!” It’s hard to beat seeing that printed on the cover of a hardback book!

And so, sure, we lived that life so there’s nothing new or truly surprising that we’ll bump into in the pages, but she was a little late on the 2015 book and as we sat side-by-side paging through it when it arrived, we continued to say, “was it that long ago that happened?” or “I thought we had that <insert name of thing here> a lot longer than that!” It’s just fun to relive the very best moments of your life with a quick flip-flip-flip. Even those photos that won’t be meaningful to anyone else.

So, that’s it. If you keep scrapbooks, you’re probably ahead on this score but if you’re use to just cataloging your vacations and days by snapping digital pics and saving them on a hard drive somewhere, I strongly recommend spending some time making your own best-of.

Thanks for dropping in.

WP_20170305_14_46_00_Pro

WP_20170305_14_46_19_Pro

Posted in Home projects, Me, Suzy | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Changes near to home

Posted by joeabbott on March 5, 2017

clip_image001[5]clip_image001

I’m in a bit of a quandary: as Suzy and I transform our property up in Granite Falls, removing years of brush and invasive vegetation, our neighbors at our current home are doing something similar to a lot abutting our home.

Since we moved in, there’s been a lot adjacent to our house that was vacant, overgrown, to all observations, ignored. Before we had yard waste service at our home, we’d dump the occasional bucket of trimmings into the underbrush and it seemed to go unnoticed.

At one point we had kept a compost bin on the far side of the fence (since replaced with a larger one on our property) and the owners knew it was there. They had to keep the property lines cleared of blackberry plants so they’d show up once a year to trim them back and give the fast-growing plants a shot of some herbicide. Another neighbor had talked to these folks but we’d never seen them.

Well, a month or so back a For Sale sign appeared and Suzy has been watching for action … and it came in short order. First, a set of (I’m assuming) amateur loggers felled all the trees on the lot. It looked like a scene from a page in the book The Lorax; trees just felled willy-nilly and left where they were dropped. It was a sad event.

A few days later, Suzy sent me the pictures as the lot was cleared by the massive machine you can see in the pictures here.

It’s somewhere sad; the lot was home to a few annoying trees (cottonwoods) but it had a wonderful old snag in which a woodpecker would live and a beautiful madrone tree specimen. Madrone trees are native to this area but not in great numbers; they have a peeling bark and a wonderful cinnamon-colored wood, with dramatic, curving structure. A great tree and sad to see it go.

So, all that habitat and a wonderful location for all manner of small mammals, birds, and plant … just gone.

The quandary I face is that we’re doing something similar up north. Similar is in quotes because we’re not completely flattening and entire lot; of our 5-acres, we’re preserving over three for native trees and maintaining corridors for animals that wish to use our lot as a thoroughfare to the 20-acre parcel across the street. While we haven’t removed any large trees yet, we’re sure a couple will have to go just based on where we plan on citing the house. Our careful decisions and slow pace make what’s happening next door feel a bit more heavy-handed.

Not only that, it’ll take a bit getting used to having a home higher than ours that, potentially, will be looking into our backyard. A lot has to do with what is built and where on the lot, but we’re not exactly excited with these developments. From the pictures you can see we’ve enjoyed a bird’s eye view for a while, which adds to the complexity of my misgivings to the development.

And so, as we reflect on the changes happening here and how we perceive them, Suzy and I will tread carefully on our lot up north as we transform it. We’re committed to putting in lots of plants and beautifying things and, now more than ever, looking forward to moving up there and enjoying a little elbow room without someone looking into our backyard.

Posted in Home projects | Leave a Comment »

Things I miss

Posted by joeabbott on January 21, 2017

The holidays are a great time to be around our house … it’s filled with light; inside and out. From my home office I have a nice view of our backyard and, while it’s a gentler scene in summer’s blush  (Suzanne does a good job of giving us “four season’s of interest”) in any season, it’s hard to beat evenings between Thanksgiving and New Year. Here’s what I get to enjoy:

WP_20161231_18_01_07_Pro

And this isn’t all of the lights. We have a few more deer in the lawn (between our house and the “blue tree”), another lighted deer on the deck, and another deer or two off to the right. It’s very nice.

But now it’s late January and I’m left with dormant plants, shrubs and trees awaiting next month before they start their push into spring. Maybe having a picture here on my blog will give me something to enjoy as I anticipate next year.

Posted in Home projects | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Goat feeder screen

Posted by joeabbott on December 21, 2016

OK, I managed to build the goat feeder screen without taking a thumb off or any other serious gaffe. It took longer than I thought it would … not sure how long I expected it to take, but five hours is more than I would have guessed. But, it came out sturdy if not anything else.

Before

Suzanne did a great job of cleaning up the tray and surrounding area. While I was working in a goat barn, her raking and scraping made building the screen something less than a filthy chore. Goats must not be too dirty because, with the exception of initially having them underfoot, it wasn’t bad. But I did keep all my tools outside, which wasn’t ideal. Essentially it meant that for every piece of wood, every cut, or any changes, I needed to walk out two latching gates and through a barn. But let’s look at the positive: I got my steps in and was able to work in clean air part of the time; I’ll call that a win.

Here was the original setup. It would have worked well if the goats hadn’t pulled the hay over the trough and onto the ground.

WP_20161220_10_30_16_Pro

Here were the panels I was provided … after we cut them down to size. It’s good material and I plan on using this sort of thing at our home when we are ready for fencing. I’m sure it’ll be expensive, but it’s sturdy and seemed to weather really well.

WP_20161220_10_42_21_Pro

And here was my work area: a couple sawhorses, a little benchmate (probably didn’t need it … or, at least I didn’t use it much), fourteen 8’ 2x4s, and a box of 2.5” screws. I brought a handsaw that I used to make all the cuts, a small router that I used to cut troughs in so the wire panels would be nested securely, and an assortment of other hand tools: a speed square, pencils/markers, a hammer, etc. Oh, and a dozen or so single-handed clamps. Aside from really wishing I’d brought my miter\chop saw, it was plenty.

WP_20161220_11_03_09_Pro

The day progresses

Sorry for the low-quality pictures here, it appears the barn wasn’t created with photography in mind. I started by locking in the base in the trough … it seemed to be the best place to start: a known location. I aligned the panels with the existing ones and, once I cut grooves in the lower board, the wire panels locked right in and didn’t move at all. I had to use a length of rope to keep the panels from flopping over, but it seemed pretty secure even without screws holding the lower bracing in place. I’ll contribute that to the well-measured cuts! 🙂

WP_20161220_11_43_54_ProWP_20161220_11_43_59_Pro

Next up, I started with the top frame. I’m not convinced this was the right place to start, but it worked for me. The keys here were to make something level and to establish where the vertical end pieces would go. On the left side, this was easy: the wire frame ended within an inch of the wall; on the right side, there was about a 4-5” gap, so the 2×4 wouldn’t bridge it. In the end we put the right-side vertical piece about 1.5” from the side and it didn’t hurt anything … either aesthetically or structure-wise. The whole thing felt very sturdy.

The trick with putting in the top piece came when I had to attach it … sandwiching two 66” pieces of wood around the top of a floating panel is pretty tough! Suzy wasn’t nearby to help so I pat myself on the back for being able to pull this off. I guess sandwiching it wasn’t too tough, it was needing a third hand to actually put a clamp on the boards that made it a challenge!WP_20161220_12_12_24_Pro

I made the channels cut about 3/4” wide with the router. The wire is probably 3/16” or so, so the channel was huge in comparison, but I made it wide for two reason: I wasn’t convinced that I could measure in the low-light barn, carry the board out to the car to cut, and then assemble with the required accuracy, and because I was trying to align the parts I was installing with the existing structure having a bit of wiggle room to nudge it one way or the other was huge. It all worked out.

After installing one top rail, Suzy had finished all her chores … a sure sign that I was taking longer than I’d thought I would. But, it was nice to have her hands available on the right-side top rail … having both third and fourth hands made it a lot easier.

At this point It was time to add the outer vertical parts. I brought a level so I was able to get it reasonably straight up-and-down and, after the verticals were in, I just cut spacer blocks to hold everything the right distance from the feeder. As you can see, the right side “floats” a bit off from the wall, but I felt good about the vertical part hiding any sharp edges on the fencing and the gap being too small for even the smallest goat to get into trouble.

WP_20161220_13_33_50_ProWP_20161220_13_33_47_Pro

After this, it was just installing the center vertical (it hides the sharp edges on the panels … the panel was originally 16’ wide but I had to cut it down to match the spacing created in the original feeder screen). I knew I was getting tired when I originally made measurements in the barn, walked out to the truck to cut the wood … but realized I’d left my tape measure in the barn. And, on that same piece of wood, I had to change the battery in my cordless drill motor but, after swapping out the battery at the truck, left the drill when I returned to the barn!! I was getting my steps in!

But, the verticals went in fine and then I just added a top-cap to “make things look nice”. It really served no purpose other than that.

WP_20161220_14_28_01_ProWP_20161220_14_27_51_Pro

Done

I felt pretty good about it being a quality product when I saw Suzy grab onto the top of the screen and use it to step up to look for any missing tools when we were cleaning up: the screen didn’t budge. While goats will be a lot less delicate with it than I’d treat it, seeing that someone could grab on like that made me realize I did OK in the “stability” department.

While it doesn’t look like five hours of work, it felt like it. That was one long drive home and the super-long shower afterwards felt fantastic. Neither Suzy nor I were interested in cooking dinner so we went out for burgers … and, after not eating all day, they were fantastic. And, with all those steps I got in, I didn’t feel guilty at all when I took advantage of their free refills on fries.

WP_20161220_14_45_50_ProWP_20161220_14_45_54_Pro

Thanks for dropping in. I hope your holiday is as well-constructed as this goat feeder was!

Posted in Home projects, Woodworking | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Odd jobs

Posted by joeabbott on December 19, 2016

Well, I didn’t get to cleaning my room … guess that’s what Monday is for … but I did manage a bunch of small jobs that were piling up in the garage.

Before

Just a few pics from the mess that was my garage. Some folks may not think it’s out of the norm, but I’d always parked inside the garage when I was able and only after getting a truck and parking outside regularly did I let clutter take the second bay. It was nice to have room for spreading out with a project: a place for lumber to dry, a spot to setup a table and work, or a sheet of plywood on two sawhorses so I could just have more table space.

But, I’ve never enjoyed leaving things out for days. There isn’t an after picture, but here are the befores:

WP_20161218_10_02_00_ProWP_20161218_10_02_03_ProWP_20161218_10_02_07_Pro

Relighting a deer

At one time we had well over a dozen lighted deer but time has culled the herd. And, we’re a little sadder for it. So, when one of our deer was just “out” and I wasn’t able to find the problem, we got creative! Suzy spray painted the little fella and I strung it up with a couple sets of lights. We then placed him in a part of the yard that didn’t have a deer and now we have one more place in our backyard that gives us a smile.

WP_20161218_10_41_18_ProWP_20161218_10_41_25_ProWP_20161218_11_15_09_Pro

WP_20161218_12_04_01_Pro

WP_20161218_13_49_23_ProBirdhouse

My mother has always had an uncanny sense for when things aren’t quite right. Well, a couple months back I remember her recalling the birdhouses I’d made and we painted together and then placed in the backyard; she asked if they were still there. Of course, was my quick response. But, as Suzy was doing fall cleaning she noticed one was in a bit of disrepair: it was the birds favorite house (always the home to some family or other). It was the most sheltered and in the branches of the trees and also the one my mother painted … a happy yellow and white striped shelter with rust-colored eaves.

Time, and probably for being in the branches, had not been kind: the wood in various places was soft, cracks developed in places, and the roof completely came off.

So, a few weeks back I built a replica and Suzy lent her hand at painting it up. While we didn’t want to have a carbon copy and infringe on my mother’s design, we took notes and riffed on her look. It’s still a yellow and white house, but the roof is red. I had the pleasure of putting that up yesterday … after moving the pole it was housed on a forward a bit and out of the trees.

WP_20161218_12_22_56_Pro

WP_20161218_13_37_51_ProTrellis

While not a “big” project, it was another task that took a bit of time: repairing the trellis.

A few years back Suzy asked if I could make her a trellis; my answer, of course, was of course!

But, sometimes it takes me a bit longer to get around to my “of courses” than other times so I think there was skepticism in her eyes. Either that or the fact that I’d promised doing it a number of times in the past. Either way, I headed to my little shop, ripped a bunch of strips of wood of varying lengths, chamfered end, made a few “stand-off” blocks, and went to installing.

As with virtually every project I do, I winged it a bit, not sure what I was doing and certainly not having much experience but, in the end, we had a nice looking trellis: lots of vertical and horizontal pieces of wood for her growing things to grab onto. But, we find that other things like to grab onto the slats as well … things like raccoons and cats that are making their way over our fence. And so, every few weeks (mostly during the summer), I’ll be called on to fix up the broken and torn-down slats. Yesterday was that day.

A simple few nails it was back to looking like new.

Birds on a wire … er, branch

I wrote about “Stuff in the backyard” before … search this site for “SITBY” … and it should be clear that those instances were just snapshots; we keep adding new stuff all the time. This past year at the Washington State Fair, a booth selling metal cutouts in the shapes of birds caught our eye. While the signs by all the different shapes noted the species of bird, they all looked like “sparrow-type” birds to me.

Suzy, having a cuter eye (as well as a more acute eye), chose a fine selection of birds and a cat … which then sat in my “when you get a chance” pile until now, December.

While the delay might annoy some, Suzy never said a word and when I was able to use one of the branches that came from our property up north, I was happier for the delay. So, with the clear weather, a little time, and Suzy helping me with the positioning of the birds, we added a bit more to the “stuff in the backyard”.

WP_20161218_13_47_05_Pro

WP_20161218_13_47_26_ProWP_20161218_13_47_12_Pro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squirrel knocker

I can’t imagine those two words ever making sense to me before now, but in her travels, Suzy found a door knocker in the shape of a squirrel. And so, it becomes one more bit of stuff in our backyard. Now, to be clear … “stuff in our backyard” is hardly a pejorative. We adore our backyard and spend plenty of time there. It’s where we go to spend our energy and to get energized in return; it’s a place of living things and stuff we care about. And now … home to a door knocker shaped like a squirrel on our gate.

Love it.

WP_20161218_13_48_16_ProWP_20161218_13_48_32_Pro

I like to believe it’s because they were cold, but the ladies were unimpressed. Squirrel, indeed.

WP_20161218_13_47_55_Pro

Fixing some lighting

The last project of the day was to fix a bit of up-lighting that we had on some of the SITBY. We enjoyed these lights but they went out and what we thought would be a simple project of replacing a battery turned into a bit more of a fix.

WP_20161218_14_32_32_ProWP_20161218_14_32_41_Pro

Upon taking the battery covers off, it became apparent that these weren’t water-tight and, when water got in, it would sit on the electrical components. One of the items was simple to repair: just buff the terminals with a bit of sandpaper and you were good to go. Unfortunately, when removing the terminal plate to clean it off, the connecting wire pulled clear. So, I ran out, got a solder iron and some solder, and reattached the wire.

Like many of my projects, it wasn’t quite that simple. There was the head-scratching, the mild cussing, and then the “how the hell?!?!” moments … but in the end, let’s just say that it was a simple solder job and a good thing my incompetence didn’t require too much more education … the wire I was soldering wasn’t getting any longer!

And then the second lamp. If you look at the below picture, I believed it was the component on the upper left on the board that was so corroded that it just ceased to function. But, when I pulled the wires clear and ran leads directly from the bulb to the battery, it still didn’t light up. While there’s a goodly amount about electrical stuff that I can still learn, there may have been more than one thing wrong here. By the time I was done, there wasn’t anything “Goodwill worthy” left … unfortunately, this one went into the trash.

WP_20161218_15_40_00_Pro

Coda

And that was my day. Well, the fixing things up part. I never got around to cleaning my room and my workbench in the garage still demands some tidying, but I felt like it was a productive day. That evening Suzy and I watched our annual viewing of A Christmas Story and I then played a bit of Xbox and finished the game Dark Souls 3. Gads I adore that game.

It was a great day and one that tees up another good one to come … today. I hope your holiday is turning out to be as productive and fun as mine. Thanks for dropping by.

Posted in General stuff, Home projects, Me | 1 Comment »

More water woes

Posted by joeabbott on November 24, 2016

If you’d asked me, I would have said I’m a “good person” but the second I craft a post about our water problems being behind us, we get hit with another. That is living a bit closer to a karmic balance than I would have thought!

This past Sunday Suzy was doing laundry when I noticed she was a bit longer in the laundry room than usual and called out to see if everything was OK. It wasn’t. Now, she was being a hero not to bother me on my birthday and with a bunch of wet rags in hand she was trying to stop our washer from being on an ever-cycling rinse\fill step. Upon investigating further we noticed error code “FE” on the display and were both surprised that, upon unplugging the machine, it continued to fill.

No surprise with this next revelation: the FE code said something was wrong with our water intake valve. We had to stop the water at the intake hose.

On the plus side, we caught the problem before much water was spilled, had the washer manual nearby to quickly convert “FE” into an actionable plan, and did some quick mopping up. On the minus side, our washer was out of action. And, it wasn’t clear how a bad water intake valve translated to water outside the machine. Oh, as it was Thanksgiving week, we had a full schedule and no time for waiting on repair men.

So I turned to the Internet. First I went through the steps with LG (our washing machine brand) to get service but, as our machine was more than a year old … well, I was on my own. Next I turned to YouTube and found a number of videos on replacing a water intake valve … heck, even I could do that! But, I needed a part. On EBay (and other sites) the part ran for a low of $61 to over $100. I wasn’t happy with those prices but they wouldn’t break the bank. But, I didn’t like waiting on delivery or the inflated mailing charges. So I did what I often do in these cases … I slept on it.

The next day I headed to HomeDepot (where we bought the unit) and while they didn’t have parts, they could order them … or, the clerk said, if we needed it now, I could check up the road at Reliable Parts. I did, they had it, and after confirming it was the right part, Suzy and I picked it up on the way to other errands.

WIN_20161121_15_50_17_ProUpon getting home, we rolled up our sleeves, managed to pull the washer out from under the counter, and while I worked on repairing, Suzy took care of cleaning up.

Here’s what I had to do:

  • remove two screws to get the top off
  • bang repeatedly on the sides of the top to loosen it
  • remove said top
  • pull off four color-coded wires
  • remove four hoses
  • unscrew main intake hose
  • remove two more screws holding the intake valve to the back
  • remove unit
  • insert new unit and undo the above steps

Pretty easy, actually. The intake valve was right at the top, all the parts seemed new and solid, and nothing leaked upon making it right.

By the time I finished my part, Suzy was done with the cleaning and inspection … everything looked great and, while not ideal to have had water sitting under the washer, no significant damage was done. We pushed the washer back, energized the water, and ran through a few cycles. While it was running, I hung around to make sure any leaks would be addressed immediately, and it gave me a chance to take apart the old unit and see how it functioned. Just like our irrigation system!

So, I can now enter the pantheon of people who can repair their own major appliances and, best yet, we were able to complete our laundry before hosting Suzy’s family for Thanksgiving. While I continue to crow at our handling of all the many water issues we have, you may have noticed we had plenty of towels and rags on hand, and a practiced look to our handling of this emergency. Something here about a good defense being a good offense.

Now, let’s get back to enjoying the pitter patter of water on the outside of the house. Thanks for dropping by.

Posted in Home projects | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Love a little rain

Posted by joeabbott on November 5, 2016

I was holding off on posting this until I got some pictures to go with it. Most of the incidents related here were pre-digital photography … or, nothing we’d take pictures of. But, this is weighing on me and I haven’t gotten to it … so posting now! Apologies for the “big block of text”.

One of my all-time favorite ways to wake up is to the sound of rain falling. And, probably because it just sounds better, the harder the rain, the happier it makes me. But that wasn’t always the case. Living in this house, we had a challenging relationship with rain and all things water in the early days.

Driveway

Our driveway is long and rises about 20’-25’ from the street to the pad in front of our garage and in the middle of that pad is a drain; all parts around the pad slant toward that drain. It wasn’t too terribly long after we moved in that we noticed a pool of water would form in the driveway but slowly subside; there was clearly some blockage but, for the patient (or those just looking to avoid confronting a problem), it would go away.

Over time, it didn’t. Didn’t “go away”, that is and we called out a rotor-rooter guy who blasted away at the drain and cleared things out. Job addressed, I thought.

It came back.

So we had it cleared a second time but, when, a year or two down the road we got another blockage, we called someone in to send a scope down the drain to find the problem. The most likely cause, we were told, was a crimp in the drain line caused when pouring the driveway that would need to be addressed. They’d find the blockage, break out the concrete, fix the pipe, and we’d need to get someone to re-lay the driveway. While we weren’t fans, we expected the driveway blockage was causing other problems so we started down this path.

They found a blockage starting about 8’ up from the end of the driveway and it was at that point someone noticed the sewer/water vault at the end of our driveway. I hadn’t known what that metal plate covered but they had the tools to open it with the intent of looking up from the other direction … you know, before they started chipping away at my driveway.

Upon opening the vault they found the problem: at some point a construction crew appeared to have had an extra load of concrete which was dumped into the vault. Someone produced a pry bar and levered away the blob, and hundreds of gallons of water rushed into the vault … followed by hundreds of dollars rushing out of my wallet and into the rotor-rooter guy’s pocket, but this water problem was now solved.

Under the house

I’d mentioned we suspected the driveway flooding was doing other damage, and that damage was to cause water to form under our house. I don’t know if the slow-rising water in the driveway pushed water into that space or if the lack of drainage kept water under the house area from draining, but the upshot was that our crawl space (which was easily high enough to allow people to walk around upright under the house) would start to get damp.

While I wasn’t sure how to get water out of that space … it never seemed bad enough to merit a sump pump … I could keep our stuff from getting wet: I built a deck structure under the house!

This was a two-problem solution. The first problem was to keep our stuff stored here from getting wet; the second was to determine if I had the skills to build our own deck. And while the deck structure has worked marvelously at keeping our things dry for all the many years it’s been under the house, it told me quite emphatically that, no, I was not skilled enough to build our own deck. You see, a deck-like structure under the house doesn’t need to look good, it just has to be sturdy. And it wasn’t and was … that is, it didn’t look good but it was sturdy.

And, I’ll mention that, after the driveway drain was cleared, we never collected water of any appreciable quantity under the house. Not even a damp-looking patch. Dry dry dry.

The backyard

After buying our home and doing a little research on it, we found that a natural streambed at one time ran through our backyard. The slope and swale of the land ostensibly ran down and to the side of our yard (according to land maps), but we always seemed to have pools and puddles in the middle of the property. At one point, Suzy and I saw what appeared to be spring-like pumpings of water out of the side of our yard! Just a slow, blurp-blurp-blurp of water, chugging through a spot in the ground after a good rain.

Well, our first play was to put a French drain in around the patch of grass we called our backyard. I installed it and never really did it right, but I managed to put something in that did a little bit to keep the deepest puddles from forming in our lawn, but it wasn’t much. To be honest, I just didn’t have the skill or background to understand how to fight something as big as draining a backyard.

But, when we had a landscaping crew come in and re-do our backyard, part of that discussion was how to drain the property properly. While the cost was dear to our bank account, about half the overall price tag on the project was for a crib wall. That’s right, the spendiest part of our deck and backyard landscaping can’t be seen, but it runs the width of our deck and about 5’ below the surface, catching water and running it into the drainage off the gutters. One of the best investments into the property that we’ve made.

The deck\extension

Off the front of our house was a deck. It stood over the garage and, due to the height of our home, gave a tremendous territorial view of the valley below us. Unfortunately, one of the standing posts on the rail around the deck allowed water to run into the house structure below it.

So, recognizing again we had a problem beyond my skills, we brought in a company to pull aside drywall, find the issue, dry out the structure, and prevent the issue from coming back. While I’m not convinced they did 100% perfect on that job, I didn’t know better before hiring them a couple years later to completely enclose the deck and create a home office from the space that had been the deck. I mention that because …

WP_20141123_002While putting on the addition, they found what appeared to be fresh water damage in that same spot. The guy who was looking at it with me was the same guy from the original repair but he kinda hemmed and hawed about it just looking like it was new, wet damage. Probably just hadn’t been completely dried out a few years earlier … or something like that.

Anyhow, we continued the construction and, one day during a heavy rain in which the partially completed addition was “buttoned up” and waiting for sun, I noticed that it was raining in my garage. Yup, right below the construction site a stream of water was flowing heavily into the second bay of my garage. A quick call and some scrambling on the roof found that someone hadn’t supported a gutter properly and, in the heavy rain the slope on the gutter reversed allowing all the caught water to flow into a seam in the roof that wasn’t yet sealed up.

We became familiar with industrial drying fans and 24×7 dehumidifiers running.

WP_20141120_005Fast forward a couple years, the home office project was complete and we simply loved the new space; fantastic. But, Suzy noticed that the flooring by our front door was starting to warp; follow the corner of the walls leading to that place and, sure enough, you can see water damage along the entire wall. And was was above this space: the wall the construction folks had installed as part of the addition.

So, we brought them back again and, after lots of talk about how it might be moss on our roof drawing water up and into the space, how wind might be blowing it in and under the shingles, and other conspiracy-like theories, a roofing guy sent out by this contractor said simply: they didn’t install the flashing correctly and all the water is draining slowly into a seam.

There was a lot of back and forth on this one … admittedly the addition project had completed about 2 years earlier but this appeared to be a clear case of their error … but they covered all the costs except the electrical bill required to, again, run a couple industrial-sized dehumidifiers 24×7 … for six weeks!!!

Coda

And I think that’s it. There are other stories about putting gutters on the chicken coop, about our sprinkler system breaking and causing a geyser, that same system having a control valve that stuck open and was slowly flooding our front lawn, or the time I “fixed” one of the sprinkler heads, allowed muddy water to infiltrate the system, and we had to hire a guy to clear the heads I wasn’t able to unclog. But I won’t belabor those … they seem to be of my making one way or another (even if it was just having a sprinkler system installed).

What I hope you can appreciate is how, on these rainy Seattle days, I can awake to the sounds of water coming down (we hit over 5” since Oct 1) and just smile. We’ve had our water-worries but, as far as I know, they’ve been addressed. We’re warm and comfortable and dry as can be … so let is rain, I say … we got it covered.

Posted in Home projects | 1 Comment »

Sorry for the delay … maybe this will tide you over

Posted by joeabbott on October 22, 2016

Hey, all … I have a couple stories going but they need pictures that I don’t have. You see, Suzy and I have a lot of pics but only started to really save our shots when digital photography came on the scenes. Even then, I seemed to have LOTS of shots of mountains I’d climbed and outings I was on, but very few of our home and projects about the house. But, in looking for pictures to go along with some things I’m writing, Suzy sent me a trove of great shots from our early days … I’ll share a few here as I try to find more appropriate shots to go with my other posts.

Let’s talk about our backyard

When we moved in, we didn’t have much of a backyard; it was a field. I fought back a lot of the blackberry plants but, after a time, we brought in a construction crew to put in the bones of the yard. Suzy was just starting to learn gardening (on a large yard scale) yet we didn’t have a master plan. Each part has been added thoughtfully, but we didn’t have an overall vision. It’s come together nicely.

The below is what the entire yard looked like: tall grasses, a crown of blackberry bushes, and no fencing on the sides. And, for the most part, just a long, undulating slope.

004_1

Here’s a shot of our “deck” or patio. Just an 8’x8’ concrete pad that we reached by a broad single step. And, right off it … grassland. We did have a small buffer of yard, but in this shot let that grow when we knew we were going to have work done back here. You can see the flags where construction was going to begin.

IMGP0162

It’s a little abrupt but here’s an “after” shot … after the deck and landscaping structure was in but before Chickenville, the path\bridge, and our raised beds.

IMGP1769

We were pretty happy with our fire pit on the plateau … we’ve spent a lot of evenings up there with a small fire.

P1000603

Suzy and I planted the Leyland Cyprus at the top of the hill one died (I ringed the bark with a string trimmer) and it had to be replaced … they’re now about 40’ tall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And, let’s stop here. I’ll post another tomorrow but I now have to get going as we prepare to head north for another day of spreading bark chips on the new property perimeters. As always, thanks for dropping by!

Posted in Garden, Home projects | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Tool rack for a plastic shed

Posted by joeabbott on July 16, 2016

I talked about building a tool rack for our Keeter plastic shed a short while back but just came across a couple of pics of it in use. I am fairly chuffed at how well this turned out so I’ll share the photos here.

Nothing all that fancy: 2×4 dimensional lumber and a couple of specialty hooks made specifically to grab exposed studs. At the very top we screwed in a short piece of 3/4” plywood as a top shelf. The only parts that required any sort of diligence was the sizing dimension to make sure it would fit perfectly left-to-right, and then the 45° angles on the leg supports. Then just screws!

 

P5010002P5010003

Posted in Home projects | Tagged: | 2 Comments »