email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Friday, September 30, 2011

Garden Watering Stand

I like to keep the garden watered, but it's boring.  It's wasteful to use an oscillating sprinkler on the raised veggie beds because of the walkways between them, and the flowerbeds are too narrow for one.  It is too boring to just stand there and water all the beds by hand.  I have drip irrigation hoses, but they all broke off at the raised brass couplings under the weight of the snow 2 winters ago (haven't quite figured out how to repair them).

I had developed a rather convenient way to water them all a patch at a time using a fat hose nozzle and a spading fork.  I stabbed the fork in the ground abut 10' away and nestled the fat hose nozzle (shower setting) in the fork's D handle.  But that required getting the garden fork firmly in the ground at each 6' section or raised bed.  Naturally, if I needed to water the beds, the lawn soil was rather hard to penetrate with the fork.

I needed a better way.  My first thought was a pole with a clamp on top and a flat "X" at the bottom with spikes to "step" into the lawn.  I couldn't find any parts like that, and I'm not a welder.  Then I looked at my camera tripod.  It looked a bit flimsy, needed some kind of attachment at the top, and I wasn't sure how waterproof it was.  But a tripod seemed the way to go.

I built one using pressure treated wood and stainless steel hardware.  The PT wood is 2x2"deck balusters. The tripod is designed with 1 forward and 2 back legs.  It is 2 back legs to resist the backwards force of the water and the weight of the hose.

The balusters come with pointed ends.  I wanted the points for the bottoms, but I wanted flat tops to attach a nozzle platform.  So I cut off the tops of each of the 3 balusters.  Then I cut 3" off the 2 back legs to use to widen the attachment surface.  Two pieces of scrap wood added some width.  It was all glued and screwed to the front leg.
Next, I used a tapering jig on the tablesaw to cut angles for the 2 back legs to attach to the front leg.  They are shorter because I used 3" to make the top attachment surfaces, but also because the front needs to be longer to create an upwards angle for the nozzle platform.  That will make more sense in the last pictures.  I can't give an exact angle for the cut (I really just overlayed one on the other and eyeballed the "right" spread).  It looks about 30 degrees though.
I needed to drill a hole through the 3 legs for an axle bolt.  I rigged up some stops and supports on my drill press for the 2 angled back legs.  The front leg just needed a spacer to account for the platform support.
It looks like this when the bolt and nut is put through all 3 legs.   This holds the legs all at the angles.  But I also wanted to be able to store it easily for the winter.  That meant being able to collapse it.  So I took the back legs back to the drill press and lifted them up slightly to angle the holes. 
I may not be explaining that well.  To store it, I wanted the 3 legs to compress flat to each other, and the lengthened hole allowed that.  And so that the bolthead and wing nut (for tightening securely on a flat surface, I used a forstener bit to make an angled hole the size of the flat washers.  I don't have a picture of that, but it will be obvious when/if you make one of these yourself.

Notes:  1, The washers between the legs were removed later.  I realized I DIDN'T want the legs to slide easily when being set up.  2,  The spacer washers below the wing nut are there because the wing nut catches on the wood before the bolt is tight.  3, Use a bolt with threads the whole length.  The bolts with about 1" of threads don't have enough thread length.
Here is the tripod in the storage position.  That's what I mean by "compressing flat" and why the back legs have elongated holes. 
Here is the tripod set up, minus the hose nozzle platform on top...  You can see that with the front leg longer, it creates an upwards angle.
Here is the finished tripod.  A piece of PT board is glued an screwed to the platform support on the front leg (the screws are countersunk under the wand nozzle).  Copper clamp-downs hold the wand in place with pan-head exterior screws.  A wand nozzle is much easier to attach than a standard nozzle.  The wand, BTW, has the most uniform spray of any nozzle I have ever tried.  This brand is Melcor; others may be just as good.
To relieve hose-weight pressure on the wand, I attached an angled  hose connector.  I have quick-connect attachments on all my hoses and attachments.
And here is the watering tripod in action!  Adjusting the angle of the front leg easily adjusts the angle of spray.
It's easy to move from spot to spot, stores nicely, and should last decades!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pictures Again!

I've been a bit frustrated lately, often not being able to get pictures into the posts.  They would upload in the Choose Files box, but would not transfer to the post.  I even posted a question on the Blogger Help forum (no replies).  So, today I tried the new Blogger interface, and pictures load properly.


I am showing the pictures of the "Poor Old Storm Drain" to add to THIS POST today...

The overview...  Yes, believe it or not there is a 4x4x4 foot brick well and heavy metal grate under there!
At first, I tried to pull the debris off.
Most of it was too entangled.  I wasn't surprised.  The last time the drain was like this, the County needed power equipment!
But I stopped trying as soon as I saw that the brick structure was broken!  You can see part of the brick wall is at an angle.

I also noticed that the metal grate on top is actually shoved OFF the brick structure!  You can also see that the woody debris is packed so tightly that stones washed over the top and wouldn't fall through.
I called County Maintenance and reported the problem.  They politely took all the information, but wouldn't suggest a repair date.  I'll be happy to see them out here by next Spring.  That's about how long it took the last time.  However, I will say that they do good work when they come.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Redo On The Lawn

I haven't re-seeded the lawn in years and there are thin/bare spots.  So before Tropical Storm Lee came through, I thought I would take advantage of the predicted rain for the week to keep new grass seed wet while it germinated.

I didn't realize how MUCH rain there would be and how HARD it would fall at times.  Some of the seed I put down then has germinated - in thick separated bands.  It looks like the lime markers on a football field!  And all the formerly bare spots are still bare.

So much for THAT $42 worth of grass seed!  So, today, I bought another bag and I re-seeded the lawn after mowing it down as short as I dared (1").  This time, I even raked the lawn roughly and collected dried crumbled grass clippings to cover the bare areas after seeding.

After seeding the lawn again, I sprinkled the dried grass clippings over the bare spots.  Not thickly, just enough to give a little cover and hide them from the birds...  Then I spent an hour gradually watering the seeds enough to let then soak up some moisture and start germinating. 

I saved about a lb of grass seed for patching spots that don't grow this time.  Its a blend of 3 Rebel tall fescue.  I like fescue, but it isn't a spreading grass, so bare spots develop.  I think I will get some bluegrass for the sunnier areas next time.  It spreads.  But the lawn is at least half shaded, so I need fescue on most of it. 

Sorry no pictures again, but for some odd reason, I can't upload pictures on THIS blog.  Works fine on the cat blog, and as far as I can tell, the settings are the same.  I don't have any maximum picture upload issues, as all of mine are in the "free" range.  And pictures that won't upload here WILL upload to the cat blog.  It's driving me nuts.  I posted a question on the Blogger Help Forum days ago, but have not gotten any responses.  Any ideas are more than welcome!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Poor Old Storm Drain

Tropical Storm Lee finally did it in.  I'm used to it getting covered with fallen branches and washed-down debris, but this time the washed-down stuff actually broke the storm drain apart.    It is a brick shell covered by a heavy metal grate that sits on the bricks.

Not any more... 

The back of the brick structure is batterred loose and at an angle.  the top is covered with tree debris I can't pull apart.  It is so tightly interwoven that stones piled up on the top.

I would show the pictures of the broken storm drain, but blogger isn't letting me upload any pictures on this blog..  I getting a bit pissed about that.   Not only that, but all of a sudden, I have to sign in to each of my 2 blogs every time with full username and password.  Two days ago, I could select them from a drop-down list or use a bookmark.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


On 9-11-2001, I was quietly doing my regular job.  An odd news announcement caught my ear at 9 a.m.  A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.  Strange accident, but one hit the empire State Building many decades before in heavy fog.  But I mentioned it to a supervisor (his office included FEMA responses for our agency).

Then there was a 2nd.

Later, I felt a "thump" through my feet.  A few moments afterwards, I learned the Pentagon had been struck by "something".  I worked a couple miles away from the Pentagon, and 2 blocks from the White House.  It was a really bad day after that.  We all watched the terrible events.  I won't go into that further.

When I got home, I bought and set out a flag from my back deck vowing to leave it there until the perpetrators were caught and punished for such a horrific act.  I have decided to leave it up (4th one actually, they do wear out).

In past years, I have said many things about the events.  This time, I think it best to display a couple of images.  I searched 1,000s of pictures.  Most I found were far too graphic, or xenographic, or bloody, or boastful.

I hope these 2 wordless graphics will strike the right balance on this 10th year commemoration of 9/11...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Earthquake and Storms

[Sorry no pictures today.  Blogger has been rejecting pictures on THIS blog, but not my other.  Can't figure out why.  I'm not exceeding any limits.]

Well it sure has been an interesting few weeks.  First an earthquake on Aug 23rd, then Hurricane Irene Aug 27th/28th, and then Tropical Storm Lee Sept 5th-9th!

It was the 1st earthquake I ever felt, and while it was nothing like West Coast earthquakes, it was certainly more of a surprise.  My first thought was "It CAN'T be an earthquake, they don't happen here!", but after a few seconds, it was obvious it wasn't a tree falling on the house.  And then we had to wait to see if there would be aftershocks.

Hurricanes aren't terribly common here.  They tend to either make landfall south and approach over land, weakening rapidly, or pass by further off the coast.  But we do get serious ones occasionally.  I remember Hurricane Agnes in 1972.  It came right up the Chesapeake Bay and sank the family boat (a complete loss).  Then there was Hurricane Floyd in 1999.  That one dropped so much rain so fast that my street was flooded, half my front yard was flooded, and I stayed up all night wet-vacuuming water from the basement.  It is the only time I've ever seen the 2 storm drains next to my yard actually completely covered with standing water!

So then we had Irene.  Fortunately, the ground was very dry and basically absorbed all the rainfall and there wasn't even standing water afterwards on my low front lawn.  Still, 7" fell here, and it was the strongest wind I have experienced in my 25 years at this location.

Tropical Storm Lee was actually worse.  First, it came over Maryland and just sat there for 4 days raining almost constantly!  Not as hard as Irene, but for over twice as long.  Second, the rain bands were heading directly north the last 2 days.  The strongest ones kept going directly through my county.  It was depressing, as if the rain bands were following the highway through town!  I had to empty my good rain gauge twice!  The total for Lee here was 10.5"!  The airport 15 miles west only got 5.5" and to the east they got only 7".  That made 17.5" of rain in 13 days...  Third, the ground was completely saturated from Irene, so the rainfall had nowhere to go but across the surface seeking low spots.

One of those low spots was my patio!  The entire yard slopes gradually from the far back to the street front.  Part of the patio has cinder block walls to hold the slope.  The non-cinder block entrance is at ground level.  The patio was never built properly.  The house builder didn't properly slope it slightly toward the lawn to prevent water collecting there.  And over the years, the lawn has risen slightly, enough so that prolonged rain can lap against the sliding glass basement doors and seep in.  I have occasionally had a slight problem with that.

Well, after the 3rd day of rain, it finally started seeping in again.  I tried the wet-vac, but it was too prolonged a rain to stop seeping in.  I finally had to go out in the pouring rain at Midnight and dig a 6" deep and wide ditch 10' to a more downslope spot at the fence gate.  Happily, the water collected in the patio started rushing out!  I was relieved.  In only 10 minutes, the collected rainfall was a foot away from the doors and I knew I wouldn't have any further problems in the basement.

It finally stopped raining very early this morning...

One odd note about the storm.  The County came by just before Hurricane Irene and cleaned the collected debris of several years from the primary storm drain.  It worked fine for Irene.  But Lee covered it back up again.  That shows how much more forceful rainfall drainage there was from Lee.  And not only tree debris; there are golfball size stones covering the woven tree debris covering the storm drain!  AND, it appears that the brick storm drain has been broken by the force of the debris and stones.  The back bricks appear all loose and tilted, and the metal grate at an angle.  I will have to call the County about that.  I'm sure they will be thrilled!

Can I please have a break from earthquakes and hurricanes for a while?  Please?