email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Little Computer And Some Garden Problems

COMPUTER:  Well, first, I KNEW everything wouldn't be perfect on the new old laptop.  The thrill of connectivity deceived me.  Oh, it's not terrible news, but the "M" key came loose right away, and my reader list keeps disappearing from the sidebar.  It sticks on the desktop but not the laptop.  I'm sure I'll find out how to stick it permanently, but haven't so far. 

And there are other annoying problems.  I'm sure most can be fixed, but some may just be part of using a laptop.  I was expecting that since I was only using the laptop for reading blogs (at the moment), what did I care about security?  There's nothing ON the laptop.  But then I started getting unending, nearly constant ads.  It was like "Whack-A-Mole"!  Close one, another pops up.  I went 15 minutes doing nothing but closing ads at one point, and even closing some of them seems to have generated some email responses to the ads even though I don't have any email set up tat I know about.  Probably some basic gmail embedded in the computer.

I went into the system preferences and made some adjustments which reduced the ads but haven't eliminated them.  I was hoping not to have to buy MacKeeper for the laptop (it can prevent pop-up ads among other things.  I may find free software that does that.  Apparently, I'm going to have to compare files on my desktop to the laptop, see what I can copy over, and maybe buy some simple versions of other software.

If anyone has Mac desktop and laptop equipment and some of those things sound familiar, please drop me an email with any useful advise, please!  Reattaching the "M" key is actually a priority, but the other long term stuff is more vital.

GARDEN:  We had an unusual 70+ day today, so I set about constructing the 5th of 6 framed beds.  I thought it would go fast, but NOOOOO....

I mostly have to laugh at all the surprises a project can offer.  Well, it doesn't help to complain.  Not that I don't both laugh AND swear sometimes.

I got out in the garden at 1:30.  First, I had to carry the precut boards  (by me, not the Home Depot guy after the first bad experience).  I carried one out to the garden, then decided to try using the dolly to carry 2 at a time.  Didn't work, they were too tall and awkward.  So I carried them all out one at a time.  2"x8"x7' preservative-treated boards are heavy, but on my shoulder one-at-a-time worked.  That part was fairly expected.

So the 5th frame was to go 2' from the last and since there had been old beds there before (full of good soil), I only shoveled soil enough to lay down the new boards (different sizes from the old and 90 degrees in rotation).

Dragged out all the usual tools from the shed, connected the 150' of electrical cord, set up the radio on Classical, and started to dig some trenches where the new frame would set level.  There are invading vines from a neighbor, and I have been digging them out as I go.  Dig, pull, toss, dig, pull, toss...  Only one looked odd out of the corner of my eye, so I looked at it.  A poison ivy plant!  Sure, why not?  I haven't seen a poison ivy plant in the garden for several years and I was holding it in my bare hands.  Might as well find one now. 

So I dropped it in a remote corner where it could die peacefully and went into the house at once to wash my hand.  Holding the hand up so that I wouldn't touch anything in the house with it, I got safely to the bathroom and washed with soap for 5 minutes (hurray for pump soap).  Then I washed again with rubbing alcohol.  If I'm not complaining of poison ivy in 5 days, you'll know it worked.

So I was back out at the garden and set out the corners for the 5th bed.  Which meant clamping a long straight board to the end on the previous bed so that they all stay even with each other.  Naturally, I had brought the small clamps back to the house for a different project, so back to the house I went.  That 150' of walking back and forth adds up!  So I clamped the "straight-edge board" and set some corner bricks to support the lower lever of the frame.  Yes, I've developed a routine after the first 4 beds.  Experience accumulates.

The distance to the far end of the 5th bed was farther than I eyeballed it, so I had to rip out more of the old frame boards and dig off more old garden soil into the existing beds than I had expected.  More time gone.  And then I hit a 3" tree root from my neighbor's junk trees.  And I mean "junk".  He just let whatever grew, grow.  None of them are good trees, just invasive ones that grow thickly and unhealthfully.  Someday, I may ask him if we can just cut them down and plant nicer smaller ones like dogwoods and crabapples or whatever he likes.

But it meant I had to find my ax to cut the invasive root, which was back in the house, of course (for a perfectly good reason).  Then I remembered that the ax was a bit dull, so I had to sharpen it.  And the bench grinder on a stand was behind a bunch of stuff moved when the insulation guys worked in the basement, and by the time I got access to it and sharpened the ax to "OK" that was another quarter hour gone.  And of course, the root was loose in the ground so chopping it with the ax took some time.

An hour and a half and I still hadn't gotten the first board in place for the 5th bed...  I used some bad words.

But I was finally able to start with the frame.  Previous frames, I leveled first and constructed later.  I tried constructing first this time.  If you place bricks angled at all the corners, you can get all the board corners to match.  That worked pretty well.  I got the lower layer of the frame attached in only 30 minutes.  That sounds long, but I am obsessed with getting all the corners matching as perfectly as possible.  These beds should last 20 years and I'll be looking at them a lot, so why not go for the best appearance?

To construct each layer of the framed bed, I set the long boards on a brick at the corners.  The brick also holds the short end boards at the same level.  After that, I can use long clamps to loosely hold the 4 boards together.  After that, I tap the boards until the square ends match up.  Sometimes the boards are not exactly the same width, so I wedge one up to match the next.  I used little twigs on the first few beds but realized the axe blade was very good for that.

I have 2 drills for the project.  One is a standard electric drill for drilling pilot holes for the long screws that go though both boards at the corner.  The second drill is a cordless drill with a screw setting (has a slower speed and a torque control to not overdrive the screws in).  But most importantly, it means I don't have to keep changing the drill bit for the screwdriver bit.  And I'm using lubricated star-drive screws designed for preservative-treated boards.  Those resist the P-T board chemicals AND go in easier.  They are worth the very slight extra cost.

I got the lowever level of the framed bed finished and saw bad news.  The sun was on the horizon!  It was only 4:15!  But my horizon is not flat horizon.  The land slopes up radically on my west side.  But I had all the tools out, the 2nd level of boards ready, and I wanted to finish the 2nd level today.  It supposed to rain tomorrow and get colder.

And wouldn't you know it, my box of screws was empty.  Back to the house...  I thought, and correctly, that I had another box of them "somewhere".  Took only 15 minutes to find them.  Yes, they were in an obvious place, but not obvious to ME today...  LOL!

So back outside in the fading light.  Fortunately, the 2nd level of boards is WAY easier than the first.  And I found a few quick tips to make that easier.  I had used a square piece of 4"x4" to establish square corners on the first couple of 4' wide framed beds.  I found that using 4" bar clamps on the 3' wide 3rd and 4th beds was easier.  I tightened them loosely, tapped all the corners flush, then tightened the claps more and drilled the holes.  Worked great. 

Except the 5th and 6th beds (like the 1st and 2nd beds) are actually 4'3" wide and the 4" clamps are JUST too short.  Well, guess what, you can hook 2 clamps together!  So I attached a 4' clamp and a 12" clamp across the beds at both ends and locked all the corners tight after making them flush in all directions*

After that, and with the sun over the local elevated horizon, I got the last of the screws in!  The framed bed isn't complete.  The 2 levels are not attached to each other.  I uses a 1"x6"x6' P-T board for THAT.  I attach it on the inside of the long boards.  Half the width above the seam between the frame boards and screw it on.  Then attaching screws in that 1" board below, draws the 2 levels together beautifully!

Tomorrow isn't going to be as nice as today.  50 degrees vs 75.  But 50 is OK  I might get the last  LAST, LAST LAST framed built finished tomorrow.  If it doesn't rain...

So close to the end, and chasing the decent weather to the finish, LOL!

But you know, if there weren't surprises all the time in a project, it probably wouldn't be worth writing about it.    Seriously, how exciting would it be to just write "I built 6 framed beds this year"?

* I still had to tap boards around in all the corners until the matched up evenly horizontally AND vertically.  THEN I tightened the clamps hard and drilled pilot holes for the screws.

Pictures in a few days when I finish...


Mariodacatsmom said...

Sorry the new/old laptop is giving you fits. I have a laptop and have had problems with pop ups too - but it's an HP. I'm surprised that the Mac has them. Hopefully someone can give you some tips. Sounds like you have been really busy with the beds. Big job, but well done. We'll trade our snow and cold for some of those warmer temperatures.

Megan said...

Your blog post would be one line long and boring, Mark. This was much more interesting for those of us who didn't actually have to deal with any of the challenges. LOL

Looking forward to the pics.

Sydney, Australia