email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Little Political Humor

I'm a bit of a political nerd, so I hope these make sense (and I like VP Biden a lot)...

If VP Joe Biden became President in 2016...

1.  "Air Force One" would be a train.  To Delaware.
2.  Late night comedians would surge in the Neilson Ratings.  Joe is a constant source of gaffes.
3.  His White House Security name would be "VEEP".
4.  He would be conciliatory; he likes both chocolate AND vanilla ice cream on his cones.
5.  The official White House drink would be a non-tini (Joe doesn't drink alcohol).
6.  New national food craze - PASTA.  Joe loves pasta.
7.  Hillary appointed New York State dog-catcher.
8.  Then appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice (because Joe is a Nice Guy).
9.  National Capital moved to Wilmington Delaware ("Weekly Air Force One Train transporatation costs too high, says POTUS Biden").
10. Republicans announce support for Biden, "he's Our Kind Of Guy - white, male, and old" they declare.
11.  Southern Republicans go step further, "He's darn near a 'good ole boy' they say".
12.  Political partisanship ends, criminals reform, cancer is cured, Mars colony established, Al Gore retroactively recognized as 43rd President.  Bill Clinton resigns as VP to make room for Gore.
13 Vulcans arrive and invite Earth to join the Federation.  Bill Clinton elected World Representative.  Putin reduced to attacking neighboring nations in Risk Tournaments only.  Republicans disband party...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Next Project, Part 2

Made some progress on framing in the area around the sunken patio wall and deck posts the past to days.  It's a bit awkward using just the deck leftovers, but I think I have them arranged so that I don't have to dig really deep trenches to set the boards into the ground.

The lower end needs a 2"x12" board and a 2"x10" board to reach the top on the cinder block wall, but the far end is almost level with the wall, so I only need a 2"x4" board.  The in-between part will have a couple of stacked boards to complete the frame and make it level on the top of the boards.  And I can attach those directly to the deck posts, so it will be very sturdy.
I had some problems figuring out how to attach the lower end boards firmly, until I thought of drilling holes down the width at both ends.  I can put a 3' remesh bar through both and pound them into the ground with a sledgehammer.  That will have the remesh bars 1' into the ground.  Plus I will use some exterior caulking cement to attach the boards to the cinder block for some extra stability.  It's not epoxy or resin, just like really thick toothpaste.  I'm not sure what that stuff is actually called, but I've used it before to attach wood and cinder block in the basement and it holds like bolts!

Drilling the holes through the width of the 12 and 10" boards took 2 hours today!  Fortunately, I have a large drill press (generic image).  With some clamps and a speed square, I was able to get most on the holes drilled straight. 

But it won't go all the way through a 12' board (8" depth only).  So I had to finish the drilling manually.  Fortunately, having the 8 inch holes drilled straight allowed me to use a manual drill for the rest.  The drilled holes allowed me to stay straight for the final work.  But I couldn't have done THAT without the extra long drill bit.

I bought a 6-piece set of extra long drill bits many years ago thinking "I'll need those some day".  They're not the best quality either.  Not titanium or even high-speed steel, but how often do you need something like those?  So they were cheap and they work well enough.  Just using a couple of the cheap drill bits a couple of times has been well worth the cost.

It took some work though!  Every inch deep, I had to pull the drill bit out and remove sawdust packed in the drill spirals.  Could I have simply turned the boards over on the drill press and drilled from both sides?  Yeah.  But experience has taught me that no matter how carefully you measure, holes drilled from 2 sides will NEVER meet in the middle.  Sad but true.  You need factory precision tools to do that.

But that part is now done.  Tomorrow, I will attach the bottom pieces by pounding rebar through the holes and gluing the ends to the cinder block.  Then it will be a lot easier to trench the long side boards and attach them to the deck posts.

Filling in the framed box will be easy.  Why?  Well, the yard is made of dirt; I can steal it from almost anywhere, LOL!  I'm going to move the front yard hostas to the new box, and hostas don't even LIKE really good soil.

One interesting thing is that the hostas will be almost at eye level when I'm out on the sunken patio.  I used to park at a city garage that had an arrangement like that, and it was really different seeing the plants that way.  It was always calming.  So I'm hoping for the same effect here.

Surprise discovery...  The new deck posts are set precisely 14' away from the house.  But the distance from the sunken patio cinder block wall varies by 6".  The cinder block wall is NOT square to the house!  Every project I do reminds me that the builder did a slipshod job in all aspects.  So the framed box is not going to be a nice rectangle. 

But it was either make the framed box a 90 degree rectangle (in which case the deck posts would have been variably farther inside the frame, or use the deck posts as the guide for the frame and the frame gets 6" narrower toward the high end.  I decided that using the deck posts as a guide made a more logical appearance.

If any of my friends ever decide to measure it, I will rap their knuckles with a ruler!  LOL!

Some notes from the first picture...  1) At the far side of the sunken patio, there are some hostas already planted.  I had one common green hosta planted near the old deck stairs for 20 years and it spread some.  I was able to divide it into 12 pieces and transplanted them there.  All seem to be recovering well in that really terrible clay soil.  Well, its what they were growing in before, so I assume they liked it. 

2) That object in the upper right is a mailbox.  Of course, I don't get my mail delivered in the back yard.  But it makes a great place to store all my various garden hose nozzles and plumbers tape*.  I have another out in the garden where I store all my small hand tools.  Great idea to keep track of small items...

* Plumbers tape is thin plastic that wraps around the threads of hoses and attachments.

 It does a great job of stopping water leaks around hose and nozzle connections.  Leaky connections?  Give it a try.  $1 at most hardware stores.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Energy Reduction Quote

I received the company's fixed price quote today.  Interesting reading...  I have some questions about some of their measurements and proposed actions.  They want to meet with me personally to discuss the proposal, but I prefer to do it by email.

I always prefer to take company salespeople out of their comfort zone (talking a lot off the record).  Responding to email questions, they have to answer the questions and I have the email to read and re-read a few times to make sure I see what they are evading (if anything).  And it gives me time to consider more questions.

For example, I've noticed they over-estimated my current annual bill by 20% (and I showed them my last 12 month bills),  they overestimated my "conditioned" (meaning heated and cooled) residential square footage (added in my unheated garage as a "conditioned" area), added an extra exhaust fan to be sealed, etc.

So I will compose a list of questions for them to answer.  They should be pleased.  Their salesperson is 30 minuted away from me and planned a 30 minute visit to explain the quote.  I'm helping them do it in about 10 minutes.  Yes, I'm being a bit sarcastic...  I was a salesman once and know the value of talking face-to-face, sliding around questions, and not have anything in writing except the actual contract (with all the fine print).

Mostly, I know what works for ME.  I bought my last car by email, and it sure saved me a lot of time AND money.  No sitting around while the salesman pretends to "see if I can get the Manager to go for this low deal".  And with everything in writing, there were no "little surprise add-ons" afterwards.  I got the car for $500 above the dealers actually cost (according to the Consumer Reports Car Report I bought for $12).  And the car will be 10 years old In October.  So I like negotiating at a distance.

Back to the energy savings quote...  The total quote is for $5100 (with a $2000 subsidy from my electrical supplier bringing it to $3100).  The estimated savings is about 30% (in line with what I've found at seemingly neutral internet sites about such projects.  My last year energy cost was almost $3000, so that means  $900 per year and a payback of just under 3.5 years.  And that's assuming energy costs don't rise (and they will) so it will be closer to a 3 year payback.

After I get them to make some reductions in their quote, and given their Angieslist "A" rating on both quality of work AND price, I think I will just have them do the work without getting competitive bids.  And there are a few smaller cost-effective things I can do myself...

Monday, July 28, 2014

28 Year Old House Renovation Plans

I've sure been doin some research and talking to contractors (and checking with subsidy programs from my electrical supplier lately)!  I have pages of notes.  And I am darn near worn out just trying to combine all the possibilities.

The various contractors all promise 30% energy use reductions in just a few years.  Well, if I believed them all, I wouldn't be paying ANYTHING for electricity or water in just 3 years.  R I I G H T !

The electrical supplier site suggests I can reduce my bill 30-50% with 5-8 year paybacks.  The Govt  sites say about the same.  Those seem more reasonable and trustable.  So I could save $1,000-$1500 per year by spending $8,000 now.  Seems reasonable.

The best savings seem to come from...

1.  Attic blown insulation (gaining from R-12 to R-49).
2.  Attic baffles directing outside soffit heat to the roof vent.
3.  Basement blown insulation.
4.  Expanding/Sealant around the the attic and basement edges.
5.  Having the ducts scraped clean to improve air flow.
6.  Installing a low blow attic fan.
7.  Having the existing heat pump tuned.

An almost none of that was what I expected when I started to investigate this.  I thought it would be all new triple-pane windows and door weatherstripping!

I've learned otherwise...  Its all about proper insulation.  The standard batted stuff is crap.  It never fits tightly, and it never does the job.  But it is cheap for the builders and looks good.

My house is totally electric.  The average bill is $220 per month.  Which isn't horrible.  But if I stay here 10 years (and I probably will), I could save a few thousand $ in some simple ways.  Items 1-4 +6 seem like the way to go for me. 

But I'm still having a few geothermal companies come by for estimates.  That could save LOTS in 20 years.  More a selling point than an advantage I will see.  But I may stay here long enough, so who knows?  And I like the idea, personally and ideologically.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Thursday 13

You Are In Late Middle Age When...

1.  You go out to call all the cats in at dusk and they line up at the deck door.  From INSIDE!

2.  You read a comic strip about twerking and your not quite sure what they are talking about.

3.  You research something on the internet and you realize you are following links in a circle after seeing the same one a third time.

4.  The Houdini wine bottle cork screw remover "works" but you have to take the cork off the screw manually.

5.  You side with all the middle-aged comic strip characters and only "sort of" get the joke.

6.  You don't listen to your old CDs any more.  The songs are all earworms anyway.

7.  You get out of bed in the morning wondering which joint will "feel odd" when your feet hit the floor.

8.  You go to bed not because you are tired, but because you are bored.

9.  You buy some sports thing because "I used to do that".

10. You keep product boxes in the attic because you might move and they would be perfect for packing those things up.  And you threw those products away 10 years ago.

11. You haven't gone out to celebrate New Years Eve because, well, who wants to stay up that late, really?

12. Conversely, you decide that celebrating New Years Morning really makes more sense.

13. You make lists about being Late Middle Aged...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Next Project

I haven't forgotten about the chicken wire garden enclosure, but I'm trying to find a rentable trencher machine to do the hard work.  Now rush now; its late in the garden season, so anything I built will be for next year.  And I've adjusted so  that I have some veggies growing in the flowerbed areas usually reserved for flowers. 

I'm calling it a semi-lost season.  I do have some nice tomatoes growing.

And I dug out an old flowerbed where nothing much was growing to plant cukes and flat italian beans.  I've stuck 4 bell peppers around too.  I'll get by this year.

But since I have to wait a week for the quote of the house air leakage job, I'm on to a new project that I can do fast.

The sunken patio has walls (duh, "sunken") but the lawn slopes sideways to it.  And the new deck posts are 3' beyond the patio walls.  Looks like a great place to plant shade-loving plants if I frame it so that it is leveled.

That's one reason I took pieces of "junk" deck wood aside.  There are 3' pieces of 2"x12" boards which can frame the lowest end and 2"x6" boards that will work the long ways.  Don't worry about the details, just accept it means I can box a sloped area with free leftovers.

And since the deer have discovered my front yard hostas (after almost 10 years) and eaten all the leaves, it is time to change them out for deer-resistant plants (and I have a perfect one - more below).  So where do the front yard hostas go?  Well, in the new framed area I am making, shaded by the deck of course!  Every problem has an elegant solution waiting to be discovered.

The front yard box will become Snow On The Mountain (a variegated 12" tall foliage groundcover that loves shade) and daffodils (neither of which deer eat).  The hostas will be moved to the back yard which has a 6' fence the local deer have never jumped over.

Pictures later as I assemble the framed bed and move the hostas.

Always try to do something useful every day...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My House Is Leaky

I mentioned Friday that I had an energy inspector visit to see if I had sufficient problems to justify my electrical supplier subsidizing a further more detailed test  surprise, surprise, I did).  So a guy came by today to do a "negative air blower test" and examine all the rooms with an infrared camera to identify hotspots.

The air blower test was neat.  He opened the front door, sealed the opening, and turned on a large fan to pull air in from outside the house.  The pressure difference inside shows how much leakage there is.
While that was going on, he went from room to room taking pictures (I assume) to show where the hotspots were as outside air was being pulled into the house through gaps.  He showed me the camera display, and I have to admit there were many places that quickly got hotter in the places that one should expect.

I will be getting a fixed quote from the company in about a week.  From what the initial inspector suggested, the usual fixes are baffles in the attic that direct outside air from the roof soffits up to the roof ridge vent, additional blown-in insulation, expanding foam sealant around attic and basement beams and vent pipes.  The quote should also have a secondary section of things I can do or arrange myself (and that they will do if I choose) like an attic exhaust fan, new water heater.

I think this is all legitimate, though it isn't the kinds of things I can verify myself.  The company is part of an energy savings program sponsored (and subsidized) by my electrical supplier, they have a top rating on Angieslist, and the electrical supplier has previously advised me that I use more electricity than neighbors in similar houses.

I asked about window leakage (through the glass and around the frames).  He mentioned that the  EPA (Environmental Protection Agency for my non-US readers) has a list of most common energy losses.  They are in order; gaps, insufficient insulation, inefficient heating/airconditioning units, old water heaters, incandescent lights, windows, and large TVs.  I plan to replace the windows and old water heater anyway.  And he replaced (for free - subsidized by my electrical supplier) all my incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent ones.  I had already switched many fixtures to CFLs or LEDs where they stayed on for long times, but free ones for the rest was great.  There are even 3-way CFLs now.

He mentioned something else that really surprised me.  It is recommended by the EPA that 30% of the house air be replaced each hour, so even if they could seal the place up completely, it isn't healthy.  But 30% per hour?  WOW!  I would have guessed "per day".  Well, I guess that's why the house doesn't smell of cooked food and cat litter boxes all the time...

I plan to take the work proposal (to be received next week) to another highly rated company and ask for a similar quote.

One nice note...  Before the guy sealed the front door for the air pressure test, he pointed out that he could see light around the door (meaning leakage).  Well, I did know that myself and had put some weatherstrip along the outside of the door.  It was an odd kind that went on the frame outside the door, and I don't think it works very well.  I need the kind that goes between the door and the frame.

But the neat thing was that, when he assembled his door sealer for the air pressure test, he said that it should measure all the house leakage.  And I said "Well except for around that door".  He turned and looked at me, smiled, and said that I was the first homeowner he had met that had "caught" that. 

Well, I can't wait to see the work quote...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Computer Games - Risk

This will only make much sense if you play strategic computer games...

I'm either getting better at playing Risk (against real people, not the computer robots) or I am lucky.  Tonight, when I signed in, was offerring 2,000 free tokens (good for something, I'm sure - I'll have to look into that) for winning 2 games in 2 weeks.  That may seem easy, but with many obsessed players with multi-millions of points, that's hard for us more ocassional players.

But I'm willing to put my mind (game sense) against almost anyone (seriously, after a million points, how much better can anyone get?)
I needed to win 2 games in 2 weeks.  I played 4 games tonight and won 2!  I was stunned.  Thrilled too, but stunned.  The lowest rated player (other than me)  had 3 times my points.  Some of them had so many points you couldn't even read them because of the allowed space for their names.

So I had a really good night playing Risk.  Everyone should have a good day or night at SOMETHING, once in a while.

I'm not sure what to do with these tokens I've won.  I think you just make your displayed profile fancier.  I already have my avatar dressed in camo and an animated orange/white cat (Marley) licking his paws at my feet.  What could be better than that?  That's my life.

Maybe I can add more cats (Ayla and Iza).  And some background.  I bet they don't offer gardens as backgrounds.

I play Trivial Pursuit there too.  Kill it.  As long as it is not "Actors & Actresses".  I don't watch movies.

Should I try try out for 'Jeopardy'?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Interesting Day, Part 2

So after the "energy inspector" left yesterday, I had other things to do.

First, there was yet one more form to get notarized about Dad's death.  Dad had 4 investment accounts and life insurance (and 2 days retirement pay), which all required some forms (several of which needed bank manager legal signatures and stamps).  So I had all but the last one signed, copied and filed.  The last was just a Notary stamp, and I had the envelope all filled out (just needing the one last page stamped).

I got that, went straight to the post Office (they were all oversize envelopes of 6-10 pages, so I couldn't just stick an extra stamp on them).  OK, that's all done. 

I'm conflicted.  I don't need the money (I've been fortunate to have done well enough myself).  But I'm grateful to Dad for having accumulated it over his life and I appreciate my portion of his life's savings.  And he knew from our financial discussions over the years that I was doing well. 

So I'm going to increase my giving to charitable organization that I think help the world best.  I'm not naming specific ones, but world hunger, world medical treatments, and the general environment are high on my list.  And there will be a local cat no kill-shelter (Southern Maryland suggestions are invited).

After getting home, I planted leeks among the corn.  There's enough sunlight around the base of the corn for the leeks to thrive.  It was nice to get some dirt under my fingernails!  I have the corns planted about 8" apart in bins (its an experiment), but I figure the small space the leeks require won't bother the corn.  SCORE!

And then I wanted to get my garden mailbox re-installed.  I use 2 mailboxes in the yard to store small tools.  One is in the garden itself (for hand tools).  The other is at the deck for hose nozzles and attachments.  This one was the latter.  The old attachment had been poorly constructed and a bit off level.  I fixed that today, and attached it to the center post of the new deck absolutely level. SCORE!

They I decided to hang the niger thistle-seed finch-feeder from the center of the deck.  But there were 3 deck posts and only 2 long hangers.  So I need a third.  But I did have the 2 to install, so I did that.  And in honor of the new deck, I did it RIGHT!

I set one about balanced sideways on the post and clamped it loosely.  I have this neat tool that gives an analog dial red at any angle.  Old but accurate.  I clamped the hanger in about the center and level position, then measured it side to side.  I attached a screw at the bottom, then adjusted the position of the hanger to be level and clamped it tight.  Set in another screw at the top (pilot hole for accuracy and all that ease of screwing).  Perfect.  Now I just have to plant some appropriate flowers in the baskets to be hung. 

After THAT, I dug up weeds around the tomatoes and the bell peppers I planted.  They are all doing well.

By tht time, it was getting near dark out.  I called the cats in.  They get kibbles as treats when the come in when called.  Dinner was a smoked half steak sliced thin with carmelized onion, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, and crimini mushrooms (cheaper lately than regular white mushrooms), bean beans, tossed salad, and M/V potato.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


This was actually 3 days ago, but I have some posts scheduled and its just too confusing to go back and change the tenses of those.  So I'm writing this today in the present tense, but you are reading this a few days from now.  With that out of the way...

I play games of all sorts.  Board games, not people games.  And Dad taught me that there was no point in playing a game if you didn't try to win ("there's a reason you keep score", he said).  As the eldest child, Dad taught me a lot of card and board games.  He gave me no slack.  It was win or lose.  I respected that.  And it made me a good gameplayer.  I AM competitive.  Generally, I play to win. 

If you detect some guilt coming in here, you're right.

I was 20 by the time my youngest sister, Jennifer (deceased 2010 and sorely missed) started playing games herself.  I always won, but I showed her HOW I won, so she could learn (and she did) (which was more than I got from Dad).  You can ignore the father/son dynamics there...

And I still love to play games against people who are (or think they are) my equals (and a darn lot are better).  Otherwise you would be seeing me in chess or poker tournaments.

But, you know, lately I just don't care about winning so much.  Sometimes just playing is good enough, though I do try to win.  It's just that I'm not obsessive about it anymore.  Losing a game doesn't destroy my day.

So there I was at joining some games randomly (after staying up all night at them) and one game was doomed for me from the start because it was late in the game.  So the game ended and we started a new one.  Just 2 human players and 3 computer robots (who play quite well, BTW).  The routine is to kill of the Bots first, and the other guy agreed.  Something like this.
risk game images photo: RISK SUCKS risksucks.jpg

But then he turned the game over to his son (somewhere older than 12 and younger than 20 I would guess).  He was playing for a badge.  I know about the badges, but I don't pay any attention to earning them.  They just show up in my "space" sometimes. 

But this kid really wanted some particular badge and I was standing in his way.  He even attacked me before we killed the Bots. 

I felt for that kid.  I TRIED to lose.  Well, I didn't play suicidally, but I gave him every opportunity to win.  He got a winning position from his Dad.  And to be fair, I'm really good at comebacks.  Bit I really did try to let him win.  He didn't...  He even thanked me for the game.

So I feel like I failed by winning.

I didn't get a chance to explain to him how he lost (the games ends and all the players are gone).  If he learned anything from our game, I'll never know.

So my question.  Should I have tried harder to lose, or should I have tried harder to win faster?

I personally thrived in merciless competition, but some people don't.  So what do you think?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Interesting Day, Part 1

Some days are better than others, and today was a nice day.  Both productively and weather-wise.  But I'm talking about a sales visit today.

I got a cold call on home improvements yesterday, and I "never" respond to those.  But this one I did.  They offerred a free "energy inspection" (my verbal reply was "oh sure").  But they claimed to be operating under a program sponsored by my electrical company, the initial inspection was free as in "really free", and IF I decided to go with a full "energy audit" with real equipment tests, the cost was only $100 (because the other $300 of their costs are paid by the utility in hopes of reducing energy usage.

OK, I scheduled the initial visit for today.  Some people have trouble getting out of paying slowly increasing costs once a company "gets their foot in the door".  I'm not one of those people.  I love free inspections.  If a problem is found, then I go find a really professional company to do it again and if necessary, I get 3 bids to fix the problem.

So an energy inspector came by today.  She spent an hour poking around the basement and attic, asked me questions about known drafts and warm/cold rooms throughout the house.  Then she explained that (surprise, surprise), there were enough possible improvements to recommend a "negative air pressure test" and the various ways they could fix the energy leaks (depending on where the $100 audit found leaks.  Fortunately, I have some former professional experience with heating and ventilation practices, and the $100 cost (for me) was very reasonable. 

So I have the air pressure test scheduled for next week.  The air pressure test is familiar to me.  They open the front door, seal it with a powerful fan pulling air out of the house, and have air pressure gauges inside and out to see how much air gets pulled from outside into the house through air leaks.

So, after she left, I did some internet research to check the company, the methods, and the likely savings outcomes.  Angieslist gave them a high customer rating, the methods seem to be "good industry practice", and if my electrical supplier is subsidizing the work that seems like a decent recommendation too. 

And the electrical supplier subsidy is substantial.  They pay $300 of the total $400 cost for the detailed energy audit.  More importantly, they pay 50% of the first $4,000 dollars of actual work later.  I wouldn't even have to request reimbursement, I just wouldn't pay their 50% to begin with. 

I should explain that my house is 100% electric, that I get routine charts with my electric bill showing that my energy usage is above average for my type of house locally (3x average in Winter), and that I have been considering having some "fixes" anyway for a year.  That increased Winter spike started when I had a new heat pump installed 3 years ago, and it has been bothering me a lot recently.

I (naturally) didn't mention to the energy inspector that I will bid any serious work to 2 other highly-rated companies once I get the fixed work quote.

Aside from all that, I had an interesting time discussing the potential future "fixes" with the inspector.  I was not surprised that some of the improvements involved additional insulation in the attic (who argue against more insulation?).  I was a bit surprised that they propose to remove all the rolled/batted attic insulation, caulk around all the attic joists/drywall, and replace it with "blown-in" insulation to "R-49" (R-16" is standard code around here).  I'll check about that tomorrow.

But what surprised me?  She didn't know how insulation actually works! I didn't pursue the question, but it was informative.

So anyway, after researching the "good industry practices" (and keeping in mind the my energy supplier is willing to pay 50% of the first $2,000), I'm willing to go to the $100 equipment test (which involves about 2 hours of 2 person's work.  The company is not making any money off that!  I'll know more about things when I see their fixed quote with detailed work described.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Old Boat

Is gone! 

Well, one of the deck demolition guys saw my old jon boat sitting in the backyard full of leaves and asked if I ever used it.  Well, I haven't for 5 years.  So he made an offer, I made a counter offer, he made a 3rd, and I didn't care about the difference so we agreed on a price.  He got a good deal, but the boat wasn't doing me any good either just sitting around.

So he paid me half as a down-payment and I wrote out a receipt.  He came by Sunday with the remaining amount.  He's never had a boat before and is retiring this year.  Wanted a cheap boat to go fishing in.  I sold it "as is" which may get him in trouble.  "As Is" was boat, trailer, and an electric motor.  Nothing beyond that.

Still, the next morning, I decided I couldn't let the guy drive away with leaves blowing out the back, so I cleaned them out (have I already mentioned all this?) and used the garden hose to blast it as clean as I could.

Good thing, because I found 2 wasp nests in the bait well and they would have been really p*&&ed by all that bouncing on the road home.  I killed them, but I did have to dodge the ones who returned to their absent nests later.

 So yeah, it was "as is", but I decided to improve the "as is".

I even made sure the boat was still waterproof by filling it up 6" deep in water and waiting a day to see if there were any leaks.  There weren't.  Draining the boat was impressive, and the shrub behind it appreciated the deep watering..
It wasn't perfect when the guy returned, but he sure did appreciate the improvement.  But it allowed me to show him how some parts of the boat worked.  The bait well, for example has a drain below the water line.  But there is a pvc pipe that rises above that so outside water doesn't come in.  Onshore, you pull the pvc pipe and it drains.  That sort of non-obvious thing.

But it looked OK.
I hope he enjoys the boat.  I had it for 21 years, so I got my money's worth out of it and some cash back.  But it sure looks odd not seeing a boat in the yard...

Now I'm deciding which way to go on a new boat.  I DO plan to start fishing again.  I like stillwater freshwater fishing, so I might go for a squareback canoe (for attaching an electric motor).  But there are some slightly fancier boats for getting out on the calmer waters of the Potomac river.  I'll wait a while to decide.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Damnable But Small Problems

It's the smaller problems of life that get at you the worst sometimes.  I mean, Really Bad Problems, you know they are, and you have to deal with them.  Family members die, you break a bone, you lose a job.  Those are bad.  And everyone understands.

Its the smaller stuff that is sometimes harder to deal with, because you are all alone with it.  The splinter in your finger, the sore shoulder, the car that doesn't like to start, those don't get so much sympathy. 

I've been plagued with the latter recently.  I don't need much sympathy, but I DO want to gripe about them.  And its MY blog, so here goes (LOL)...

My left thumb is inept.  For years, I've had a spot I stuck with a thorn and it caused a tiny hard spot that just won't go away.  I keep noticing it with the index fingernail.  I've opened it a couple times with a sewing needle, but I can't get it to heal away.  And I cut the base of my right thumb years ago and it formed a hard spot there too.  I just keep noticing it when I grab things.  So when I got a half-inch splinter in That Left Thumb from the new deck I just got all freaked.  I couldn't get it out.  Turn the inside of your left thumb towards you and put the back down on a steady surface.  Now try to get at it with a needle and tweezers. 

Maybe I'm not as flexible as I used to be, but I just couldn't.  It took a week for the skin harden over the splinter like a callous, and I managed to loosen it after that.  Its healing fine.

But sometimes, it is just stuff like that over and over.  I damaged the left shoulder rotater cuff 10 years ago, and I thing I've done it again.  I don't even know specifically how or when I did it.  I just woke up one morning and OUCH!!!

My aging Mother used to say "getting old isn't for sissies".  Hmmm. I've been enough heavy work on my own for a long time and had a lot of "ouchies" (and enough "ARGGGHS" too), but they seem to be coming more often these days.  I hope I'm not becoming a "sissy".  But let's just say that I used up a tube of muscle rub ointment before the expiration date for the first time this year.

I wish that was the only problem.  I garden a lot and I get a lot of unwanted tree saplings that need to be dug out.  Usually, its not a problem.  Oh, work for sure, but I get them out.  Well, I was surprised this week. 

I am rebuilding my old rotting framed garden beds.  Aligned better to the sunlight, wider and higher, and to have a chicken wire enclosure to keep the varmints out.  Well, with the season moving on, I decided to redig the beds that will be outside the enclosure so that I could have some Summer plants growing (cukes, beans).  Meaning the old less-productive asparagus bed had to be dug up. 

There were 4 tree saplings I've been cutting back in there for several years.  So it was the right time to REALLY dig them out.  I couldn't.  I mean, I used the same techniques I always used before, but they just would yield!  I have tools.  A sharp all metal spade, an axe, a 5' pry bar.  I finally got one out and it about killed me...

Talk about realizing that you aren't 30 anymore...  I'd be happy to be 40 (I'm 64).  I did the sensible thing.  I left the other 3 in and planted around them.  Its just for a few months.  Come Fall, I will cover that bed with plywood and plastic and let them DIE next year.  All problems can be solved with time.

But I only mentioned all this to tell you about today's problem...

I have historically had basement water problems.  The old gutters filled with tree debris and would overflow onto the deck and then down to the sunken patio.  The patio had ground level drainage.  But over the years, the soil build up (fallen leaves, mowed grass) and formed a pool that build up to the level of the basement door.  Water got in.  I solved that temporarily by digging a ditch through the lawn downslope. 

In Fall 2012, I had the roof reshingled, new vinyl siding, and new larger gutters with debris-proof tops.  No more gutter overflow filling the basement patio!  Yeah.

Right...  With the new deck, there was a lot of digging involved.  Lots of soil moved around.  They did a good job moving the extra soil to a corner of the yard.  So far, so good.  What I didn't notice was that some of the extra soil got spread into the remnants of the patio drainage ditch.  So I had a 2" wall of dirt around the lawn connection to the patio.

It rained really hard today.  I was glad for the rain because it has been about 1/4" per week the past month.  BUT!  The rain that fell through the deck filled up the basement patio (I bet you saw that coming).  FORTUNATELY, I happened to go into the basement to get something and saw the rainwater seeping in.  I threw some old towels on it and went to the toolshed IN THE TORRENTIAL RAIN to get my grub-hoe.  Shovels work, but a grub-how makes a nice 4" wide and deep trench.  In the rain. 

Even with a raincoat on (and I wished I still owned a poncho) I was soaked to the skin just making a 4" wide and deep ditch from the patio downslope 12' long.  It was a pleasure seeing the water draining out in a rush...

But that is still a temporary fix.  I thought the bigger rain gutters would solve the problem, but with enough hard rain, even just the water falling through the deck will fill up the patio.

The real fix is to lower the level of the lawn where it meets the deck, AND installing a below-ground drainage system to move the patio water downslope.

More work.  Just what I needed.  And I'm sure not going to do THAT before my shoulder heals.  I'll just have to make sure the grub-hoe surface dug ditch stays clear for a while.


And I won't even get into the new adult groundhog and rabbit I saw around the garden this afternoon.  Well, OK, I just did, but you know what I mean.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

One Last Thing

About the new deck.  They had to rush by on Tuesday before the INSPECTOR arrived because they forgot to add a handrail on the stairs.  So I tried it out.

Got a BIG SPLINTER in my left thumb.  &%*#  Couldn't pull it out.  Touchy-painful.  But I was patient.  I got it loose today, 5 days later.  What a relief...

And 2 days ago, I managed to wrench my left shoulder.  I can't even figure out when I did it.  Put there it is, all useless in some positions.  Its a little better today.  But if I extend it across my body and then use it to push away...  OUCH!!!

I do that to myself too often.  I suppose there will come a day when I do something like that and it won't just heal.  But that's not THIS time.  LOL!  Comes from living alone and having to do some things it really takes 2 people to do, I guess. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Grafted Tomatoes Report

Complete Failure!  The idea I had read about was to graft heirloom tomato tops to hardier disease-resistant hybrid bottoms.  You cut a top and a bottom at an angle and use a flexible silicon tube/clip to hold them together while they join.  You keep them in a humidity container for a week or so to keep the tops hydrated until they are getting water and nutrients from the roots.

After a week, more than half the grafted tops had died.  After 2 weeks, I removed some of the clips, but the seemingly-healthy tops just fell off.  I had 5 left.  After 3 weeks, I went to transplant them and THOSE tops fell off.

Well, I'm sure most of that was my fault.  It is commonly done commercially and by home gardeners.  I know I waited too long to do the initial grafts.  The instruction said to do it "when there were 4 leaves" (the seedlings would be about 4" high).  Mine were 8" high with 8 leaves.

So I had to use the clips "wrong".  Think of an "8" (with a fatter bottom) with a slit cut through the top.  The top makes the clip part.  Squeeze the fat bottom of the "8" and it opens the top and you attach the 2 angle-cut tomato parts together.

Well, the clip part was too small by then but the fat round part was the right size, so I tried just putting the round part down over the rooted stem and then placing the cut heirloom top down in that.  I got them matched in size very well, put it didn't work.

I assume the seedling halves were too old to grow together properly.  Or the uncut round part constricted growth. 

I'll try again next year following the "4 leaves" instruction more carefully.  There are pictures of the initial grafting process HERE.

Fortunately, I made sure to plant enough seeds so that I had regular ungrafted heirlooms to plant out.  They are growing well and I have at least a dozen fruits among the 6 plants so far.  But the disease problems usually start in August, so we'll see if I get many ripe tomatoes.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Well, Its Over!

The inspector came.  He didn't seem like a happy person, so I told the builder I was just going to stand around and keep my mouth shut and hope for the best.

That lasted about 2 minutes.  But only becaue the inspector saw my tomato plants ad asked about them.  Me red, him green after here.

Nice tomatoes.
Yeah they're heirlooms  and doing very well after setting them out late.
You grow heirlooms?  Which ones?
Oh, Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Prudens Purple, Striped German, and Aunt Gertie's Gold.
My dad liked Cherokee Purples a lot.
Best tomato ever!
You grow peppers?
Well, bell peppers, Lipstick.  Grows red fast.
Like Ace, right?
Yeah, Ace replaced Lipstick a few years go, but I still like Lipstick better.  Hard to find though.
Yeah, I remember Lipstick.  Dad switched to Ace,  Nice use of the recycling bins BTW.  
Yeah, I'm trying some  bicolor corn and leeks and and Russian fingerling  potatoes this year.
Are they good?
Yeah, I tasted one  from the box.  Better than Yukon Gold.

Etc etc, for about 30 minutes ...  Needless to say we passed inspection.  He loved my garden (and the deck was pass-worthy anyway).

The builder was amazed.  Apparently this inspector is "picky", and never talks to people, but made no complaints about the deck.  For once.  Cheers for heirloom tomatoes!
And I can't wait for the first ripe one.

But most importantly, no more stranger/visitors for a long time.  The backyard is OURS again!  I let the cats out promptly...

Now, if you will forgive me, I'm going to go stand out on my deck for a while.  And go to bed early; I was up all last night!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Some Embarassment

Have you ever listened carefully to someone and thought you understood that they said and were wrong?  AND thought of the situation logically and were wrong?  That happened to me about the leftover materials from the new deck today.

Well, see, there were chunks of wood and leftover pieces from the deck, and the construction foreman said I could keep anything I could use because it was all just going to the landfill.  Cool!

But then later it occurred to me I should be able to because I had paid for all that material in the price of the deck.  It's not like they brought leftovers from their last job here for free.  There were 6' pieces of 6'x6' posts, pieces of 2'x12 boards, and lots of cutoffs from the composite deckboards.  Best of all, there were two 20' and one 8' lengths of composite deck boards!

I should mention that the deck itself is composite boards, but the rest is standard pressure-treated wood.  And when the builder discussed the upper posts and railings, my choices were narrow pointy vinyl with a narrow top or pressure-treated wood 6" wide.  I like flat top rails to lean on and set stuff down on.

After the construction, it occurred to me that topping the flat railtop pressure-treated (P-T) wood with composite board would be a nice finishing touch.  And the other boards were the right size to frame a sloped area behind the new posts for a row of hostas under the shade of the deck.  The remaining "chunks" were good for surrounding some shrubs and filling with mulch to keep down weeds.  Etc.

I spent a hot sweaty day outside Sunday moving the stuff I wanted to keep to the edge of the yard away from the pile of debris to be removed so that it was separate from the debris I didn't want. 

So, when I saw the contractor hauling some of the boards back toward the front yard, I asked him why.  He said he could return them to the lumber store for credit.  I said I was told by his foreman that "what was left was mine".  He said that only applied to the cut-up stuff.  Dang!  I felt embarrassed. like I was trying to steal stuff.  He said not to worry, it was a common mistake. 

But I really did want that compsite board to cap the rail tops, so I offerred to buy those two 20' long boards.  Saves him having to return them and me having to go get new ones.  I agreed to add them to the final deck cost.  The long composite boards with bullnose (rounded) fronts are not cheap - $70 each. 

But I've been thinking about this.  It seems to me that I paid for all the material the builder brought to the job.  And its not the cost (after $16,000, what's another $140), but a principle here. 

The contractor didn't arrive here with any free leftovers from the last job.  So everything he had delivered here, he bought within the price of the contract and expected to use building my deck.  So it seems to me that all the materials brought to the site are ones I was charged for in the job quote.

So, aren't they mine?  So, if I pay this guy returns unused materials to the lumber store for credit, shouldn't he reduce me cost by that much?  Or leave me those materials at no extra cost.

I plan to ask him more about that tomorrow.  I'm not going to be loud or demanding, but I do want to understand this matter of materials a bit better.  Partly for now, but partly for the next contractor (and there surely will be a "next contractor" about "something" here (planning kitchen tile work and a bathroom repair job).

OK, be honest, I can handle it.  Am I wrong to fuss about whether I've already paid for the slight leftover onsite materials?  I won't hold any comments against anyone, I need some reality-check.  I'm just trying to decide if this leftover stuff was already mine.

It's not like I'm complaining about the deck at all... I LOVE the new deck!

Thanks in advance,


Friday, July 4, 2014

New Deck, Part 4

First, A recognition of Independence Day.  I go out on the deck and read The Declaration Of Independence out loud each year on this day.  It is a stirring document.  Last night, I saw someone on a political talk show who said the claim is at the end and the justification is before, so read it backwards that way. I get the idea, statement at the end and justification before.

So I did.  I have to admit, I thought about it a little differently.

And to my/our British friends, I hope there are no hard feelings.  We got off to a rocky start, but I think it has worked out pretty well over the past couple centuries.  My revolutionist ancestors would not have tipped their hats to you, but I can and do.

But we DO have our holiday and I will support it with a steak on the Japanese hibachi grill, a cold Canadian beer (or 3), a few Southeast Asian shrimp, and a German sausage.  What could be more "American" than that?  LOL!

Now to the deck.  Finally, the end!  Well, sort of.  On Monday, some guys will be coming back to take away all the debris, fill the patio holes with more cement and apply a professionally smooth surface to match the existing patio as close as possible,  and smooth out all the remaining dug-up soil.  But the deck is essentially done.

First thing yesterday morning, they finished putting the composite board on the deck.  Then started putting on the rail support posts.   It looks great.  Now there is a real deck!
Then the tedious part, putting the rail tops on, then all the ballisters.  Of course, they had a sensible way of doing those.  They tacked the all tops with a nail gun and them let them hang freely, then they tacked the bottoms using a level to get them aligned properly.

THEN they put a screw in the top and bottom.  I would have done it the hard way, of course.  Each ballister one top screw and one bottom, one at a time. 
The ballister work progresses...  They did gripe about my "screws" contract requirements though.   They said nails were just fine and would have saved them almost 2 hours work.  But nails always come loose and I can't think of any screws that ever have!  They accepted that (and I might have gotten a couple minor construction points for it).
They did get them all done eventually.

I seem to have missed taking pictures of them building the stairway rails and attaching the ballisters on those.  That was a right piece of hard work by itself.  And took 2 hours worth.  Lots of angle cuts and awkward positions for screwing them in.

They got done just before the rain hit and I helped hual stuff to their trucks.

But here is the final deck!  From the deck door straight out...
A shot across the corner...
The landing leading to the stairs...
A look down the stairs...
And finally, a shot from the stair-landing to the opposite corner. 
I am thrilled!  There is SO much more usable space.  I can actually put a table out there, for example.

And to remind you of the difference, here is the "before" picture (admittedly after 25 years)...
And the "After".
 Quite a difference!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

New Deck, Part 3

The deck is complete!  This is actually from yesterday, because there are too many pictures for a single post and I was just TOO DAMN TIRED to post yesterday.  So today's work will be in tomorrow's post.

The construction team was just 2 guys - JR and JT.   First order of work was to remove the old ledger board (holds the deck to the house foundation), cut away vinyl siding, and attach "flashing" to the house (keeps rain out).
Then a new bigger ledger board was attached.  I was surprised.  They used bolts closer than I did on the original deck and all my friends accuse me of "over-engineering"  everything I build.  Seriously, I always figure "if 2 screws are good, 3 are better".
What they did next, though, REALLY astonished me.  I build from the ground up.  Who doesn't?  Well, these guys don't, that's who!  They built the basic shape of the deck floor up in the air, supported at the corners of the ledger board and just 2 temporary boards.

I asked why (that's why I stayed outside for 2 whole days - to learn things).  They do it because it is easy to slightly adjust the deck floor box square when it is still flexible.  After the support posts are in cemtny, there's no changing things!

Forehead slap!  Of course.  And because we had talked a little carpentry, they asked if I knew how to make sure the box was square.  I said "sure, measure the diagonals".  I got a "high-five" (and a little casual respect) for that one!
But not even the professionals are perfect!  When they started to put the joists between the ledger board and the end cap, they were too tight.  I pointed out that the end cap was bowing out so their measurements were wrong.  They scratched their heads for a moment and had an "OOPS" moment.

See, the outside measurements of the deck box have to be 16' exactly.  So the senior guy (JR) had of course deducted the thickness of the end cap when he cut the joists to fit inside the box.  But forgot to deduct the thickness of the ledger board!  LOL!  Oh did he catch flak for THAT from JT.  And I got in a couple of friendly-kidding remarks later about that, which he took in good humour.

So after recutting all the joists anther 1.5" shorter, they were back in business.  Then I saaw a new surprise!  There are metal hangers to hold the joists to the ledger board and endcap.  Naturally, I would think you would attach the hangers to those and then set the joists down onto the hangers.  OF COURSE NOT!   They used a nail gun to hold the joists in place and then put the hangers under those tightly.  This is all contrary to my basic understanding of construction (and gravity, for that matter), but that's why THEY are building the deck and not me.  Me - 2 decks, Them - 200+, they weren't sure.

So here are most of the joists in place (I had to keep reminding myself; take pictures, take pictures).
THEN they put in the support posts.   I was getting the logic of it by then.  You only know where the posts and beams go when you REALLY know where the interior corners of the deck box are so you can push the posts up from below, put carriage bolts into the posts and beams, and THEN pour the cement into the holes to support!

The corner of my brain where my "Learned From Dad" experiences reside are all screaming "this is all bass-ackwards", but what I'm observing says "outside your box, watch and learn"!  So I shushed the Dad Corner and learned...
So here is a "support" post hung from the deck box, with cement poured into the hole.  Then when the cement hardens, it all flips around and the posts supprt the beams, which support the deck box, etc.  I'm still stunned.
This is the COOLEST gadget I don't own!  It clamps across a deck board, spaces the boards apart evenly 1/4".  Then you set a screw in the front and back holes (which are at angles), and drive them in!  The spacing is perfect every time and the screws are invisible.  Oh MAN, I love well-designed tools.

I also loved the screws.  In the old days, there were just straight-slot screw-heads.  Then there were   Phillip-Heads (an X).  Then there were square heads (which I use myself), then star-shaped and even "tork" which has 7 or 8 sides.  All the harder to slip the driver of the screw.  The guys use star heads.  But it this gaget that makes things so much easier.
Finally (yesterday), they attached the stair tread supports.  I am vaguely bothered by the deep cutouts on these pre-made stair hangers.  They just seem like they could break where the board is narrow.  When I built my steps on the old deck, I used solid 2"x12" boards and supported the treads on cleats attached with 1'2" bolts.  But I have to admit that 4 of those pre-made forms adds a lot of strength.

Still, I may add "sisters" (additional boards screwed to the sides of the preforms) the later. But 4 of those only a foot apart does look pretty sturdy.
Tomorrow, the completion!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

New Deck, Part 2

What a couple of days!  Pictures at the end as a reward to those who read this whole chapter (or you can just skip down, LOL).


First, the foreman of the team that will actually build the deck was to arrive between 7 and 8 am to mark the spots for the posts.  I had barely gotten dressed (and all that routine morning stuff) when the doorbell rang promptly at 7.  I was shocked, but pleased not to have to wait.

The first surprise was that he went to mark a spot on my patio.  I stopped him to ask "why so close to the ledger board"?  Ledger board is a support attached to the house to support joists.  Turns out that ledger boards are no longer used so that decks are technically "free-standing".  Why?  So that if the house falls down while people are on the deck, they will be safe.

WHAT?  Well, it's The County Code and you can't argue with it.  That was my first big laugh of the day. 

So he sprayed an orange paint X on one spot and measured 6' further and was about to paint another X when I stopped him again.  "Thats directly in front on the sliding glass door.  I won't be able to move anything in or out of the basement.  Safety exit, too".  So he called someone and told me it can be 8'.  Just past the door.  OK, but 2nd big laugh of the day.

Then he went to where the posts had to go in the lawn.  I thought those were fine, so "no comment".  If it seems like I watch contractors carefully, you're right!  They do the damndest silly things sometimes.  I learned a lot from when the house was built almost 28 years ago.  I lived 60 miles away, so I visited every weekend to see how things were going.  Afterwards, I wished I had set up a big tent in the backyard and just lived there for 6 months so I could check on things every evening.  Utterly impractical of course, but I would have had a better house.

So then the guy tells me the hole digging team would be there "After Noon".  Not "This Afternoon", "After Noon".  They arrived at 3 pm.  But they said it would only take 2 hours to "punch out" the holes.  Fine.  They had a gas-powered auger and some 5' breaker bars (aka crowbars) and a post hole digger, and the 2 guys looked like former football players.  I figured there would be no problem.

The first 2 holes in the soil near the house went fine, about 30 minutes each.  The holes have to be 2' square and 2' deep.  The hole inspector (yes, the County must approve the holes for the main posts - "Code").

The 3 lawn holes farther from the house were a different matter.  After the 4" of topsoil I'm built up over the years, they hit rock-hard clay and sand that their auger would not dig into.  They were "upset" (If I could understand most of what they were saying, I probably would have learned some VERY interesting new phrases *Coff, Coff*). 

They alternated between hand and power tools after that, completed 1 and 1/2 of the 3 farther holes by quitting time (5 pm on the dot).  I pointed out that the hole inspector was scheduled to arrive between 9 and 10 am the next morning.  I thought that was cutting it close...

But just before they left, they drew a 2' square around the 2 painted Xs on the cement patio.  So I asked about that.  "THAT" led to my third big laugh of the day.  They have to cut holes in the cement to make holes just like in the lawn!  "Why can't you just put the posts on the cement patio"?  "CODE" again!

Apparently, they have a huge circular saw that cuts "right through" cement, but not to worry, the soil under the patio was certain to be looser and would "take no time".  And they would be back at 7 am "plenty of time".

So it took them 2 hours to dig 1.5 of the 3 farther lawn holes.  Then it should take them another 2 hours to dig the remaining 1.5 lawn holes.  AND they had to cut through a cement patio, bust of the cement, remove it, and dig 2 more 2' deep holes in the dirt underneath in then "zero  to 1 hours time" depending on when the inspector arrived.

I apologize for the length of this, but more will be happening tomorrow, so I need to get through "yesterday and today" now.


One digger arrived promptly a 7 am.  One thing I will say is that these people ARE punctual!  He went right to work struggling to auger, chop, and dig his way to the 2' depth required.  With no better success than yesterday!  The other guy arrived at 8 with a helper.  And while one guy and the helper went at the lawn holes, the other guy went at the cement patio with the huge circular saw. 

OK, progress...

The contractor himself showed up at 8:30 am to make sure the holes were finished pre-inspection.  What a surprise he had!  He watched them work and than looked at his watch.  I casually mentioned that there was no chance of them finishing the holes before 11 am at best.

So the inspector arrived at 9:15.  Failed them, of course.  Rescheduled for tomorrow morning.

It took til Noon before they got all the holes "done".  They just disappeared while I was in the house.  I measured all the holes, and they were at 22", not 2" full feet.  I hope they don't get failed again and need a 3rd inspection Thursday morning.  The deck will take 2 days to build, and it hadn't occured to me that Friday is the Independence day holiday, they don't work on weekends and that would mean until Monday before the new deck is finished!

Now, for some pictures and comments:

One of the Big Red Xs.
And on the cement patio.  Little did I realize that meant cutting into the cement.  I assumed at first it was just for post anchor bolts.
The auger they used for drilling holes in the soil.  Carefully cropped for my more sensitive readers.   The guy on the right had his pants and underpants halfway his butt most of the time.  There is a REASON that careless fat guys should wear suspenders!
One of the lawn holes they dug.
Cutting the square hole in the cement patio was dusty work.  I offerred him a workshop dust mask, but he declined.
Their assumption was that the cut cement would be easily broken up with a sledgehammer.  RIIIGHT!  They had to get a jackhammer.  And that took them forever.
They finally managed to complete all the post holes.  
All this, and the actual building of the deck is yet to start.  This preparatory rough work is (finally I hope) OK.  But the work I care about is the new construction.  I bet I experience more "fun" while that goes on tomorrow and Thursday.