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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Refinish Ocassional Table Project -2

Well, I took the table downstairs and examined it carefully.

It doesn't really look as good as I thought.

When I disassembled it, I discovered that there were some broken boards glued back together. Perhaps someone fell on it decades ago. I couldn't tell from picking up the whole thing, but the individual pieces are extremely light. Some off the receded screw-holes and plagged, and I don't want to damage drills removing the plugs. It appears to be pine that was painted, then stained in some way that appeared to leave a hardwood grain, then varnished (or shellacked - I can't tell). The unfinished wood (under the connections) is even a bit punky. The whole thing is butt-jointed which is not very solid.

It's no family heirloom...

So, I looked through some of my woodworking magazines and found a couple I like. One is even designed so that the top appears to be floating above the frame. I'll decide which one I like best, follow the exact design for 2 regular size end tables and scale it down smaller for 1 as a matching plant stand, get the wood (oak), and go from there. Well, I DID want to build all my own furniture eventually anyway. Might as well start now...

But not this week. I think I will turn my attention back to the garden. There are still 3 framed beds overgrown with vines. It will be better to tackle those now, rather than wait until the heat of late July and August. The temperatures are forecast to stay in the low-mid 80s for a week, and that won't last for long.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Frustrating Day

I didn't start work on the table today. I got up late, vacuumed the newly renovated jon boat and attempted to put the new boat cover on it. I bought the cover months ago, before I had "done" the boat. The box clearly described that it fitted 16' pointed front and square front boats and that it had reinforced corners.

If you aren't familiar with "square front" (jon) boats, you can slightly see it here.

I unfolded it and found 2 narrow reinforced corners and hooked them on the front corners. I stretched it out toward the back and hooked a third reinforced corner and hooked it on 1 rear corner. No 4th corner! I went round and round the cover trying to find the 4th corner.

Well, sometimes I an more persistent than mentally swift. It took a bit to realize that there were only 3 corners on the cover and I had it backwards. I reversed the cover on the boat after a few minutes. The back corners fit nicely, but I realized the thing was really only designed for a V front boat, not a square front one like mine. I went inside and examined the description on the style of boat the cover was supposed to be designed for.

Yep, it showed a picture of a square front 16' jon boat. But it won't fit. I can hook the front reinforced corner over a trolling motor attachment in the center of the front, but it will NOT stretch out to the sides (and there is no reinforcement there anyway).

I repackaged it (no easy task, they must use elephants to squeeze the cover small enough to fit into the box) and returned it to Walmart. They refused to take it back even with a receipt because it was over 90 days. That wasted 40 minutes of driving there and back and standing in the long return line.

I'm going to email the manufacturer to see if I can mail it to them for a credit. It clearly will not work as advertised.

So I got home and decided I had to weed the garden some. I had added compost from the Compost-Tumbler I bought a few years ago. Don't ever buy one. It will NOT heat the compost up enough to kill viable seeds. I ended up with hybrid grocery store cantalope seeds EVERYWHERE. Now, that wasn't a problem among the tomatoes, corn, or pole beans. But I can't tell which seedlings are cucumbers that I planted and which are unwanted commercial cantalopes!

I THINK the cucumbers have a slightly more pointed leaf, but I am not confident enough to pull the blunt leaf plants out yet. I knew I could pull out everything that wasn't directly under the trellis. I left 2 large seedling not in the row so that I could see what the melons looked like as they grew. Hopefully, I can use those to differentiate between the melons and the cukes.

After weeding the corn and the new herb garden, it got dark, so I came inside to make dinner (steak, fresh corn, and salad). With wine, of course.

Hopefully, I can start on the table tomorrow...

I suppose that, since this blog is about projects, I can brag about the boat work. After years of making plywood floors that rooted in a few years, I decided to end the problem by getting some heavy duty aluminum plate floors. It wasn't cheap ($300 for a 4'x8' plate) but I think it will be worth it.

I had the sheet cut to 2 pieces, attached outdoor carpet to the aluminum with exterior double-sided tape, and attached bolts with fender washers at the corners. Then I attached seat pedestals in the center (being careful to straddle the ribs of the bottom of the boat. I found there was a slight flex in the aluminum plate which caused some noise walking on it, so I lifted them off and put some cheaper outdoor carpet underneath. That solved the problem.

I have to say it looks a feels "right" now.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Refinish Ocassional Table Project

I have an old table that my Dad built in the 1950's. It was originally built to hold one of those "new-fangled" hi-fi record players. The front part held the "new" LP records and the turntable sat on top.

Your eyes aren't deceiving you, it really does narrow slightly toward the back. I don't know why. Maybe that was the style of the time. I don't remember; I was a kid then. But when I got my first apartment, that was one of the pieces of furniture that my parents were willing to let go and I have brought it with me from place to place to place ever since. I have been using it as a lamp table and magazine holder.

And I'm not surprised they gave it to me. It is a bit of an odd thing. I think Dad is actually a bit embarassed to see it still around (but pleased that I like it). Well, aside from the fact that my Dad made it (which matters to me) it is a bit of a quirky, eccentric piece.

I like weird furniture with a family history. My dining table dates back to when my mother was a child. A matching writing desk serves as my bedroom "collect-all" surface. My bar is a framed door with 8" sides and glass shelves (built by Dad).

I don't like up-to-date, fashionable furniture. Even my swivel-rocker chairs are unique because I sent the manufacturer black fabric to use in place of their standard peach/aqua/brick selections (they were thrilled by my request and did it at no additional cost). The only mass-produced furniture I have is the TV table (I needed one THAT DAY) and the 7 ceiling height bookcases I bought from an office furniture company (because I couldn't find old matching bookcases and REALLY did not feel like making so many).

So this table needs work. It hasn't ever been refinished in its nearly 60 years, it is scratched and stained. And it has a peculiar design flaw (I hope Dad doesn't ever read this) because the back end is supported by a single point. It is tippy when weight is applied to the back corners.

Most of the original finish is gone. I don't know what the finish is (lacquer, shellac, varnish?). I hope modern strippers will remove it. I'll be finding out soon. I might have to plane 1/32" off some surfaces. As far as I can tell by looking at the construction, that shouldn't cause a problem. But it would mean I will have to remove and clean the planer knives afterwards I think.

I plan to add support to the back leg. Cats (and myself) have knocked it over a few times because of that. I think attaching a 1"x3"x12" board inside the back leg should solve the tipping problem. It shouldn't be difficult to match the bevel of the tapered leg. I may notch it in to the leg.

I can't tell what kind of wood it is. It isn't pine or oak. It might be poplar or ash. It might even be maple. I suspect it is even mixed woods. The front bottom on the record holder appears to be baseboard molding. I may be able to tell after the finish and stain is removed.

It has a number of attached smaller boards that make up the surfaces. I hope it doesn't fall apart when I disassemble it... LOL! Well, if the boards separate, I have a biscuit cutter and modern glues.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Some thanks Are In Order...

First, my thanks to all the kitty blog friends who have visited the new blog.

Second, my thanks to Scott (Foot Butter Guy) who suggested that Caladiums are toxic to cats. I checked and he is correct. Caladiums are routinely listed among the top 10 toxic houseplants to cats (and probably other animals).

As a result, I will grow them only in the hanging pots the cats can't reach, only in the front yard where the cats never go, and in some pots on the top of bookcases (where even Ayla cannot reach). And I will not attempt to save any (except for a few dozen for the indoors hanging baskets next year). And that is assuming they grow well indoors.

The front left landscaping box will become Snow on the Mountain next year.

Thank you, Scott, for the advice. I didn't suspect caladiums were a danger...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Planted The New Landscape Box

I don't believe I planted about 500 Caladiums today! Oh my back...

Well first, I set down 4 paver blocks (so I can reach my hose faucet and the water company can read their meter without trampling emerging plants). I rooted tip cuttings of Nandina to be planted in the back corners (which matches the Right Front Landscaping Box which is full of hostas and Japanese Painted Ferns).

I was careful not to compress the soil. I spread a plastic tarp 2' shy of the back edge and dropped a sheet of plywood on it to spread my weight (no sense in getting the plywood dirty). Every few inches, I jammed a trowel into the soil, lifted a bit and slid a Caladium bulb in (a corm, if you want to get technical about it).

I put them in irregularly, but every couple of feet I pulled the tarp and plywood forward.

Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat...

I saved the forward front corner for the 2 dozen tulip bulbs I dug up mixing the soil. That should be impressive next Spring.

The soil level is at least an inch lower than the frame. That leaves room to add shredded bark mulch. That part was planned.

I'm annoyed at the person I bought the Caladium bulbs from. I emailed him saying I had a 12x8' area. He said I needed the 40 pound box. Right! There must be 3,000 bulbs in the box and the instructions say to plant them 6 inches apart. So I used 500 of them. They're not perennial even in my area, so I can't just plant them all over the garden and ignore them. Any I want to save for next year, I have to dig up this Fall.

I'll pot up a lot for inside the house (they love deep shade). But aside from that the rest are expensive compost. I hate waste like that. I tried to give buckets of them to neighbors, but no one wanted them (They didn't even know what Caladiums are). I think I will just give it up as a bad idea. I can transplant Snow On The Mountain from my hosta bed next year and that will fill the spot up for a decade. For free.

Well, you live and learn... I went to a garden catalog rating site and gave the company a negative rating. And I think I will contact the company and complain about be seriously "oversold". They might respond.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Few Days Without Rain?

Wow, that will be amazing! I was able to mow the lawn yesterday. It was 6" high and falling over. I had to do it slowly because there was so much grass it was choking even a lawn tractor. And I think I have to get at the bottom of the mower deck and pry crushed grass off of it. It reduces the area where grass blades can be recut. I bet the stuff is an inch thick.

Speaking of the lawn tractor, I have to start it with a portable battery pack these days. The battery is just dead! But the problem isn't the battery. I replaced that last spring and late last summer. The problem is whatever recharges the battery. I'm not good at that stuff.

I assume there is an alternator or a generator that has failed. But the last time I took apart an engine, it stayed "taken apart".

I've taken a look at the engine and couldn't even figure out how to GET at any of the parts. Things are actively designed these days to deliberately thwart owner repairs. I can't even get at the spark plugs without detaching the engine and raising it, which I can't do.

It seems I will have to jump start the mower, drive it onto my trailer, haul it to a repair place, then jump start it again just to drive it off the trailer into the repair shop. ARGH!

I am very close to just buying a new one. Consumer Reports says great things about a John Deere 42" lawn tractor. I've only had this White-Outdoor brand lawn tractor 8 years, and it has given me nothing but trouble. It doesn't even cut level no matter how I adjust the tire inflation. My cheap Hechinger model lasted 12 years and worked better.

Hmmm, I think I've talked myself into a new lawn tractor... Now what do I do with the existing one? I bet it can be fixed, so it must be worth something... Sell it $200 "as is"?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Front Left Yard Project - 5

COMPLETED IT YESTERDAY! But not planted... I can't step on the soil until it dries out, and it rained again today (and will tommorow too). At least all the construction work is done and the soil has been added.

First, I finished constructing the frame. That went easily.

Then I took off with the trailer to get topsoil. There is a local nursery that has all sorts of useful stuff in bulk (soil, mulch, compost, sand, gravel, etc). But I had to stop by the recycling center to empty the trailer of a load of brush and fallen branches. The recycling center turns yard debris into free mulch for county residents. If you go on Saturday, they even load your trailer or pickup for free!

So I returned home from the nursery with 2 front-loader bucket loads of excellent topsoil (for $20 per bucket - way cheaper than bags of poor quality topsoil from Walmart).

It proceeded to start raining again (of course), but I had backed the trailer up the driveway with the back end under the roof overhang. Because the front of the main floor of the house is cantilevered out 2 feet beyond the garage/basement and the roof extends another couple feet, I had some protected area to work from.

So I shovelled.

And I shovelled...

And I shovelled. It's not bad if you get your mind into robot-mode and just keep "doing it". I soaked 2 towels wiping off the sweat. Well, it was 100% humidity due to the rain and nothing was evaporating. I did stop to rest 15 minutes several times, and I made sure to have plenty of beer in the process (having a basement refrigerator is very convenient).

Finally, the trailer was empty. It took about 3 hours and 4 beers.

After that, I spread out the soil...

Then levelled it. Hurray! I have a very nice 24" rake with a flat blade opposite the teeth. It is GREAT for levelling soil.

I brought the trailer out streetside, uncoupled it from the car, and put the car in the garage (first taking advantage of its absence to sweep out the garage).

That was about 5:30 PM. I went inside, collapsed into a chair for an hour's worth of TV, dragged myself up to fix dinner, had a bottle of zinfandel with dinner and another couple of hours of TV and went to bed at 9 PM. That is REALLY early for me, but then I had stayed up all night the day before. So I had done all that work on no sleep for 33 hours. I paid for that by sleeping for 14 hours! Retirement is wonderful - no schedules to follow. :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Front Left Yard Project - 4

Hurray! Finally the frame is going up... But a few words on problems I have had:

1. Rain. It has rained more days the past month than I recall at any time in the past 20 years. That probably isn't true, but it sure seems like it. It isn't the volume so much, but the consistency of it. So, I note that it DIDN'T rain yesterday and it DIDN'T rain one day last week rather than mention the days it did rain. LOL!

2. Pressure-treated lumber is EVIL to work with! Not safe around gardens either, but this bed is all ornamentals. I'm talking about just drilling and screwing the stuff. I tried all the right stuff. I used coated exterior deck screws, the proper drill bit for the pilot holes, and the proper screw bit for #8 phillips heads. The bit started to slip 1/2 way in. So I lubricated the screws with soap. That helped a little, but not much. I went to the next size drill bit. That helped some, but not enough. I went up another 1/64th on the pilot hole bit. I don't remember having this much trouble when I built the decks 20 years ago! But then, I was mostly drilling straight down against joists with all my weight on the screw bit. With this project, it is all sideways with no support.

3. The edge of the driveway is not square to either the house or the sidewalk. I had to decide whether to match the box to the sidewalk and house or match the driveway/sidewalk angle. I chose the latter. It isn't very visible, but the only corner I have is not 90 degrees. Fortunately, the piece of 4x4 I am using in the corner is not exactly squre either and I found one corner that matched the imperfection very well.

4. Cordless drill batteries that are put under a lot of strain don't last very long. I drained 2 batteries just doing 12 holes and screws. Granted, I had to do half the screws 2 (and several even 3) times because the heads stripped out).

5. I wish I had gone to the hardware store and bought square drive screws. Those things hold the bit great! I have a good selection of various sizes and styles of them for furniture work, but none of them were long enough for this project. Never use what you have on hand "just because you have it"...

6. The area to be framed was nominally 12' wide and 8' deep. But guess what? It was actually 12' 4" wide and 8' 1" deep. I'll have to do something at each end to hold the soil in. Argh!

But I did make some progress (before the rain came again):

First, I dug all the support holes. They are every 4'because the 12' side needs an 8' and a 4' board. The frame will be 2 boards high, so I alternated the 4' pieces. Most of the supports will be 2x6" P-T boards. All the holes were about 12' deep.

Second, I constructed the corner. It gets a 4x4" post for strength and to allow screws not near an edge. I attached the 2x4s to each other, so the 4x4 was just there for clamping purposes at the moment. It is not going to stick up.

Third, I cut the 4x4" post and the 2x6" posts to exact height for each hole (they weren't all identical depths, of course).

Fourth, I attached the connected frame boards to the 4x4" post. The stain you see under the screws is the soap I used to try to lubricate the screws. The rain will wash it off. That held most of the other boards in place. Keep in mind that I am actually building 2 sides of a box. The house and the front steps serve as the other 2 sides.

Fifth, I started attached the 2x4" framing boards to the support posts (2x6"). I got (with great frustration as mentioned above) 1/2 of them done before the drill batteries drained. I would have pulled out the corded drill, but it started to rain again (naturally). I wanted to use the cordless drill because the quick replace chuck makes it so much eaier to change the drilling bit for the screwing bit and back, which I had to do constantly. I should get one of those add-on changeable chucks for the old corded drill.

But here's what it looked like when I quit for the day.

At least I'm getting there (if far more slowly than I originally expected). I thought this was going to be an easy "2 afternoons and done" project. I'm up to 4 days now, I haven't finished, and I still have to fill the box with topsoil!

Be back tomorrow with more progress (pending rain delays)...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Front Left Yard Project - 3

No new progress. I stayed up so late last night that there wasn't much daylight by the time I got up (4 pm). I decided I was better off doing a grocery shopping expedition and a few other chores instead. I did take pictures though.

Here is the area before I dug out the azalea and barberry stumps.

This is the barberry stump. For a shrub that is only 7' high and wide, they sure develop a heavy trunk and root system!

Here is the area to be framed. There were also a lot of 1' thick vine roots and I dug them out, too. Digging out roots that extended under the sidewalk was not much fun... But better to fight with them now than fight with them after the area is planted.

And just because it looks so good right now, here is a picture of the Stella D'Oro daylillies around the mailbox. I made the green fish with the brass street number a few weeks ago. The stick-on numbers fade too quickly and I got tired of replacing them each year.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Front Left Yard Project - 2

Well, I went out and looked at the area this afternoon. The Japanese Barberry stump was 8" above ground and the soil level was a bit high there. The 2 Azalea stumps were sending up new shoots. So, I decided they had to go! That wasn't an easy decision. Azaleas send out lots of roots and I took out a barberry stump elsewhere that took hours to dig out.

But sometimes you just have to do it the "right way". I collected some tools that I recalled being most effective previously. I had my solid steel spade, an axe, a soil digger knife (basically a serrated dagger) and a "mutt". The mutt is a straight blade about 8" long and 4" wide, with a chisel point, mounted on a thick strong straight wood 5' shaft.

First, I took out the azalea stumps. Those weren't too bad, taking only 1/2 hour of digging, chopping, and prying. I was drenched in sweat, but pleased I had removed them.

When I looked at the barberry stump, I nearly cried. I REALLY tried to figure out a way to cover it and let it rot in peace. The soil around it was covered in stones, the stump was 12" wide, and I knew from the previous time that the roots are deep and thick. I sat there for 15 minutes trying to find a way not to dig it out.

It had to go, though, so I started digging away the soil around it. The first thing I hit was the original burlap from 20 years ago! That stuff is supposed to rot away. It must have been synthetic. That took a while to cut through and remove in pieces.

I dug a trench around the stump and started working my way inwards. When I found a root, I tried to chop it with the spade, but mostly had to use the axe. I tried to use the mutt, but the straight down chop of it does not equal the force applied with an axe. Each time I cut through a root (they are up to 2.5" in diameter), I pushed the steel spade under and levered it. Dont try that with a wood handled spade, it will just break.

When the stump started to move slightly, I could tell where the other large roots were and dug out more soil with the spade and digger knife. When I got a major root exposed, I went after it with the axe. More prying, more digging, more axing, more levering.

I finally got to the major straight down taproot. I couln't get at it with the axe, it was too thick and movable) for the spade. I finally went inside and sharpened the Mutt's edge on the grinder wheel. It took 15 more minutes of pounding the mutt into the taproot, but I finally felt it go right through. Yay!

There were still some minor roots holding the stump to the soil, but I was able to cut through them with the spade when I figured out where they were. Lifting the stump out of the hole was a great pleasure. I felt like I was Perseus holding the severed head of Medusa aloft!

I took the tools into the garage, went upstairs and collapsed for an hour. I lost 2 pounds doing the work. I was so dehydrated that I drank a glass of orange juice, a glass of tomato juice, and a glass of green tea. An hour later, I drank a whole bottle of wine with dinner.

I think I deserved all that.

It was too dark by then to take pictures, so I left everything in place to take pictures tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I begin to build the framed bed to which to add soil and compost...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Front Left Yard Project - 1

To the left of my front steps is an 8' x 12' area enclosed by the house, the steps, a sidewalk and the driveway. Years ago, I planted a thorny Japanese Barbery bush under the basement window for security and a couple of azaleas for color. I decided it was just too ugly.

Here is a picture of it last year.

I cut the barberry down last month. Some shoots started to grow back, so I sprayed them with Brush-B-Gon. I try to stay organic in general, but I don't mind using serious stuff in some limited situations. I use it for poison ivy that keeps crawling into my yard from the careless neighbors on all 3 sides, for example. It's not like I use the stuff where it gets into the water table...

I finally got the whole area cleared a couple of days ago. It was 4" deep in sweet gum balls and old dry barberry thorns and below that was the black plastic I had put down 20 years ago to prevent weeds from growing. The plastic was so old it came up in pieces only a few inches long at a time. And I kept stabbing myself on barberry thorns I hadn't raked out...

That was a dilemma! My leather gloves were too thick to grab the bits of black plastic. I finally found a pair of rubber gloves that were sensitive enough to pick out the black plastic, but thick enough to protect me from the thorns if I was careful about it.

My plan is to build an 8" high framed bed around the area and add topsoil and compost. I've going to cover the entire surface with newspaper and the roots of the barberry and azaleas with cardboard. Since they have been sprayed with Brush-B-Gon and will be covered by cardboard and 6" of soil, I don't expext to see them again. If they push through, I'll have to dig them out.

I'm going to plant caladiums there (it is on the north side of the house - deep shade).

I'll post pictures as this project progresses...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Heavy Rains, No Work

Heavy rain for 2 days, and yesterday I picked up a friend from Lazic eye surgury. Because of heavy rain and traffic accidents, the 2 hour round trip took 5 hours!

No yard or inside work yesterday! Later today, I plan to build a landscape box out front by the steps. But it might rain all day, so I'll have to see...

I plan to add 6" of soil in a raised frame and plant Caladiums in it. If it rains all day, I will just vacuum the main floor and basement, do some cooking, and clean the kitchen.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Slow Day (Maybe)

I got up late, and was feeling a bit lazy. So I limited my work today to mowing the lawn, weeding the pole bean and cuke trellis area, and planting 50 marigold I had grown from seed as a front border for the flowerbeds.

Even so, it wasn't easy. The riding mower has a starter problem and I have to jump-start it with a portable power pack that I charge in the house. The mower battery won't recharge and I replaced it just last Fall. Something is wrong deeper in the system than the battery. The 1st power pack charge wasn't enough. I had to recharge it a 2nd time, and it barely started. But "barely" is sufficient.

I'm going to have to start it again and drive it onto my hauling trailer to bring it to a repair replace. The local repair places had 3 week backlogs in May. And using the push mower on a 1/2 acre of sloped lawn is getting hard at 59. I'm struggling along until the backlog is only a week...

When I added compost to the trellis bed 2 weeks ago, I evidently had viable seeds from canteloupes still in it. I had 100's sprouting in the soil. It was easy to identify them among the pole beans, but melon seedlings and cuke seedlings look identical when young. I pulled up all the seedlings that weren't in the row of cukes I planted, but figuring out which ones in the row are cukes will take a few weeks.

A little non-garden story - I bought a jar of Bay Leaves a few days ago and opened it today. Bay Leaves, for those of you not familiar with them are about an inch wide and 2-3 inches long. The jar had a plastic shaker top with holes 1/4 inch wide. LOL! I wonder what they were thinking when they did that?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Two Yard Problems

I'm soliciting suggestions!

Problem #1 - The middle of the back yard has a ridge in it. 6' high, 60' long, and 20'wide. Too uneven to mow, covered with vines, and all sand and gravel.

Problem #2 - The front yard has a drainage easement on one side. Over the years, the drainage easement has silted up and the corner of the yard has sunk. As a consequence, the lawn near the easement is constantly wet and has standing water from seepage from the drainage easement for days after every rainstorm.

So, my thought had been to have someone move the backyard ridge soil to the front yard. But I don't think I will have much of a front lawn in sand and gravel soil. And if I add 2 feet of soil to the front lawn, the trees and shrubs are going to die.

I know the "right way" to solve this is to have the ridge simply hauled away and have topsoil added to the front yard. But if anyone has a real clever idea, I'm open to suggestions...