Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Weekend update:

I had my son for visitation this weekend and together we:
1. Went out for pizza, and ice cream.
2. Went to an empty lot that had bamboo, harvested 3 stalks, and brought it home.
3. Cut the bamboo into several pieces and made a bamboo wind chime.
4. Hung the wind chime in a dogwood.
5. Rolled primer paint onto the back surfaces of all of the pieces of the big cabinet.
6. Had more ice cream.

There is enough bamboo to make another wind chime. One for him and one for me. I got to explain how sometimes people will spend a lot of money to buy something that they can just as easily make. We used cedar for the hanging disk and the clapper, and mason’s twine to tie everything together.

He really enjoyed all of our tasks and ice cream. I had a nice time having him here. Next time we will start putting the top coats of paint on the cabinet and build the second chime.

After he had to leave I cut the grass and really worked on a weedy natural area out back that would be nice to have as all grass. I got the lawnmower in and cut a lot of brush, allowing me to move around there on foot. Then I brought out hoses and sprayed with "large area" RoundUp. It's a concentrate bottle that you attach to a hose end. There is so much poison ivy, so I did not stray from the mowed paths. In a couple of weeks I hope to see it all brown. Then I can spray again and start clearing it all out.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


I have a bee problem. It is swarm season and some bees decided that an area behind some of my vinyl siding makes a perfect location for them. On Sunday I heard and then saw a large number of bees at a corner of the house. Never saw them before, so that's new.

I called the Cooperative Extension and they gave me some phone numbers of beekeepers (mellissafiers...Greek root...see apiarist). One guy came out. Older guy. Very friendly. He said he thought he could remove the bees alive, but admitted that he is old and retired and asked that I call some younger guys first. Then he gave me a list he had written out. How nice! He said to please try these guys first, and if they're too busy or don't want to do it, call him back.

So, the next step is to call the others. So far, nobody answers the phone, but they must have day jobs and do beekeeping off hours. So I will call in the evening. Need to do it soon, though, because as these bees start making honey and more bees it may become a much bigger job.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Pictures of recent projects

I finally got a decent digital camera and will start posting pictures whenever possible. Here are some recent projects.

1. This is the walkway that leads from my driveway to the front porch. It was bordered with decaying wood. I have been replacing that with red scalloped concrete edgers. The walkway is about 40 feet long...2 sides. Lots of work. Plus I pull weeds and add mulch as I go along. One side is done and the other side is just set in place.

2. The gravel path was about 10 feet long, 3 feet wide, and about 6 inches deep. It was bordered by landscape timbers. All that was removed. The gravel was reused in a separate location. Granite stones were added as borders, weeds pulled, and mulch added.

3. This is the newly redone office/music room... a nice representative photo. It shows all the elements. Walls, floor, chair rail, trim, closet doors, and new wood mini blind. The colors are "Soft Kiss" above and "Tinder Box" below.

No longer "boogered up".

"Boogered up." That's what a neighbor of mine says when he encounters threads on a screw or bolt that have been damaged.

I did a dumb thing a couple of days ago and used a door handle screw as a tool, trying to tap out the hinge pin. That messed up a little bit of the threads. Of course, this handle and screw were for the door of the closet that I am working on. I simply took my Dremel and cut off those damaged threads. I figured that I could still use that screw IF I first used the OTHER screw to create the threads in a pilot hole. Worked like a charm.

I finished painting the closet door early in the evening. Then attended my first Tae Kwon Do class in about a month. I did not go all out because I do not want to damage my back. Baby steps! When I got home I installed the hinges and hung the door, then installed the handle. So that is one more big step done. All that's left in the office/music room is to touch up the paint on the baseboards, and check for any other touchups needed on the walls. Then I can start using the room.

The next indoor project will be painting the master bedroom...just the walls. This time I will go the extra mile to mask off the trim, trying to avoid touch-ups. Also, there will be no need to paint or replace any doors, but I will put up chair rail molding. The colors I will use are "Soft Angora" for the upper part of the walls, and "Federal Blue" for the lower. These are Glidden colors and can be found at their web site (Glidden.com) using the numbers "90RR 73/018" and "50BB 08/129" respectively. Just remembered that I will need to paint an ugly window that has been hidden by a vinyl mini blind for 15 years. And then I'll get a nice wooden mini blind for that window. The cost will be about 2 gallons of paint + 1 wooden mini blind + chair rail molding. Very reasonable.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Weekend update:

We had some rain and I don’t like working when things are a bit wet, so I put off any outdoors work.

But I did get some stuff accomplished. I had ordered some new speakers and a speaker box for my Jeep CJ7. These came on Friday night, and I installed them on Saturday. It took about 3 hours to remove the old speakers and wire and install the new. I had to use my Dremel to make some cuts in the speaker box so that some metal clips fit and aligned properly with the new speakers. It was straightforward yet a little awkward, but was called for in the directions.

On Sunday I decided it was time to change the stereo in the CJ7. It had an old radio and that was made to fit the cutout in the dashboard panel. I have had an Alpine stereo in the garage that I replaced in my Jeep Wrangler (I put in a stereo/CD player about a year ago). The installation required cutting a rectangle into the steel dashboard so that the mounting box would fit. I carefully measured and made a cardboard template, then transferred the rectangle to masking tape that I put on the dash. Then I started cutting with the Dremel.

This did not go smoothly. I ran out of juice in the Dremel (cordless). At first I thought there might be something seriously wrong, but then realized that the battery was probably done. So I plugged it in and waited the 3 hours for a charge. This didn’t go well either. I had plugged it into a drop cord in my shop that is plugged into a receptacle on the ceiling, which also runs the fluorescent lights, which are controlled by the light switch. When I left the shop I turned off the switch, thus turning off the battery charger. Later, when I went to use the battery I was surprised that it didn’t have a charge. Then I realized my mistake. Corrected it, but by the time it was ready it was 6 hours after I started.

In the meantime I had put the cutting wheel into a drill, but that is bulky and I couldn’t make the tight cuts I needed, so I removed most of the material. When the Dremel was ready I finished the cutting. The stereo fit like a glove and I hooked it up. What a great change. I now have digital tuning where I only had analog. And the old radio had some faulty electrical problem that made it lose signal frequently. Now I have a strong clear signal. In all, I spent about 8 hours working on sound for my old CJ.

About noon on Sunday I painted the “show side” of the closet door for my office. It looks good now, but I want a third coat, which I may do tonight. Then that will be finished.

It was hot on Sunday and I thought that the grass seed that I had spread a week ago should have some water, so I watered that and the roses.

I did some grocery shopping and then made some Jambalaya…my favorite! I don’t do this often, so it is a special treat. I had met a nice woman who has two teenage daughters and I invited them to share my Jambalaya, but never heard from them all weekend (today I got an email from her, dated Saturday, that basically states that she doesn’t want to date…didn’t see that coming).

I did a lot of relaxing, reading (“Typee” by Herman Melville), and watched a DVD (“The Princess Bride”).

And I straightened up the workshop a little. Now I can move around in there even though it’s not completely tidied up.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Plan for the weekend

This weekend I plan to:
  • Paint closet door (side 2, second and third coats, then it's done).
  • Weed, mulch, and install edging along sidewalk (side 2).
  • Work on my friend's butterfly table parts (dowels, glue, stripping).
  • Clean my workshop.
  • Work on repairing my tree customer's gate.
  • Touch up paint baseboards in the office.
  • Read and relax.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


For the past 2 days I have gone home and found a new friend hanging around the house. I have nicknamed him/her "Coily" (as in the nemesis of "Q-Bert" in the old video game). "My" Coily is a Black Rat Snake about 3 feet long (luckily I have a 4 foot dowel).

Yesterday Coily was climbing on my picnic table in the back yard. Today Coily was in a concrete Grecian Urn flower pot in the front. Same coily because I noticed some muddy looking scrape marks on the skin. While watching Coily move toward a bush I got to witness an interesting scene. A little bird (I don't know...a "thrush" maybe?) flew into the bush and started squawking nonstop. I don't know if that was to scare Coily off or to warn other birds of Coily's presence. After a couple of minutes, Coily slithered off, unfazed.

I'm not a fan of snakes, but I know that Coily is a good one to have around. I'm not going to bother him/her and I hope that he becomes used to my presence.


I love the TV show "Lost" and always look forward to the new episodes. Tonight and next week are the last ones this season. I have been taping them, but there are a few that I don't have. Maybe one day I can figure out which "Lost" I have lost. Do you think one day in the future someone will find some "Lost" episodes that were lost and air them as "Lost, the lost episodes" ?

I painted side 2 of the closet door yesterday during lunch. I think it needs another coat on each side, so will do that ASAP. Did the lawn mowing and weed trimming last night, then read a little.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

One down, hundreds to go.

Yesterday I finished the landscaping in front of my wood drying shed. This was where I had a 10 foot long gravel path. Over several days I moved the gravel to the driveway, where it was needed to fill trenches. I removed landscape timbers that defined the edges of the path. Then I put out 400 lbs of top soil, grass seed, and covered with straw to hold in moisture for the grass seed to germinate. There are 3 rose bushes along the path that were then surrounded with granite stones and mulched. Once the grass grows it will look very nice. If you use your imagination and picture the straw (and bare spots and weeds) as green grass, it looks nice NOW.

On Sunday evening I painted 1 side of the new closet door for my office. Intended to paint the other side last night, but did some lounging and reading instead. Will do it tonight.

So, one more item off my home improvement wish list and a few hundred items left. :-)

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Son and Sand, Part II

My son and I worked together and filled as many holes as we could find. In total we put something like 210 pounds of sand into the ground. 4 bags at 50 lbs each, and I had about 10 lbs from a while back. I have been checking the holes to see if they show any signs of further activity. So far, one hole looks like it may be in use. The fellow with the NC cooperative extension told me that I can use mousetraps, but bait them with apple, and cover with something like a bushel basket with a brick on top. That will keep other critters from getting hurt.

We spread 400 lbs (10 bags at 40 lbs per bag) of top soil in the location where I shoveled out all the gravel. That looks much nicer now. I need to spread some grass seed and straw there next. Overnight it rained and tamped down the soil for me and it looks pretty even now. Though after the grass starts growing that may change. I can just throw out some more top soil if and when I decide to.

My son helped me change the AC filter (his first time). We also put some primer paint on "the big cabinet" project of a few months ago. Need to get that going again so I can start organizing the workshop again.

All in all, a very productive weekend and enjoyable since I had my little boy with me.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Son and sand

My son is staying with me for a few days. Last night he and I spent a little time doing a really simple chore and he really took to it. He is 10. I have some play sand in a bucket and said we need to transfer it into plastic soda bottles using a small hand shovel and a funnel. He enjoyed watching the effect of the sand falling into the bottle and likened it to a tornado (he is currently obsessed with tornados and the Weather Channel). He filled 3 bottles.

Then we went to the backyard to one of the holes. These holes are not very big in diameter, maybe 1-2 inches, but in probing with a dowel I found that they can be pretty deep. They appear around roots and stumps of long gone trees. I showed my son how to pour the sand in, slowly, so that we don't leave any air pockets. Then poke with the dowel a bit, then keep going until full. He enjoyed that too.

I explained to him that if we don't do this NOW, then LATER on in the year the yellow jackets will have an easy place to set up shop. He doesn't get details on the first go around, so he immediately flinched and cowered thinking he'd get stung. I had to remind him I meant MONTHS FROM NOW, not NOW.

So, this morning, he was all excited about going around the yard and filling more holes. He forgot that he had to go to school. He will be with me all weekend, so I expect him to be a master hole filler by Sunday.

I bought some dirt and "weed and brush" killer too. Filling in the depression where the gravel walkway was will be one thing to do over the weekend, and spraying poison ivy, another. The air filter in the air conditioning needs changing, which is an interesting job that my son may enjoy helping with. It's not just a simple slide out/slide in job. It's a Spacegard/Aprilaire filter media. If you know what that is, then you know what I mean. Not hard, but takes several minutes.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Just a minor task done

I fixed the "hang" of the new closet door in the office. Looking at the gap along the jamb, I could see that the top of the door was a little too far away from the jamb and the bottom of the door a little too close. This allowed the door to contact the other door when opening and closing. Not acceptable.

So I removed the door and using a chisel I removed a little more material from under the top hinge, and put some paper as a shim under the bottom hinge. It took two test fits, but that door now looks and works great.

Time to paint it! Too hot outdoors now, but I can bring some sawhorses into the room and lay down a drop cloth. That will make it comfortable and convenient.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Last night I finished shoveling the rocks out of the pathway and transferring them to the trenches in the gravel driveway. So, the driveway patchup is done (one job off of my big "to do" list). The pathway was bordered with some landscape timbers, which I hauled away to an area where I am keeping debris that will go to the landfill, when I have enough debris to justify a trip. Next is to get some dirt to put in place to raise the ground level to that of the surrounding area. Then till a little, sow some grass seed, and cover with straw. I "might" get a bag of concrete and try to pour a stepping stone using a hard plastic grid that is made for that task. I've had that device for a long time and never used it. Of course, I can buy a stepping stone, already made, for probably the same price, and not have to go to the trouble.

Did the weed trimming in back and noticed a lot of small holes in the backyard. They seem to all be near places that used to have tree stumps that were eventually removed and filled with dirt. I suppose it's easier to dig in the softer ground that this provided. Anyway, I do not know what creature digs these, but I DO know that if I don't take care of them, they will be perfect places for yellow jackets to set up. I think I'm going to buy a bag of sand and fill the holes using a scoop and a funnel. I think it would be difficult to stuff dirt into the holes. The earthworms will sort it all out over time.

Also, I found quite a bit of that vile weed, poison ivy. It's everywhere. Time to get a broadcast sprayer to kill it because I am very sensitive to it. Sometimes I feel that I break out just by looking at it, though I know that's not true.

For the time being, though, it's resting and reading time. Shoulders and lower back are a little sore. Don't want to overdo it and injure my back again.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Outdoors is gorgeous

What a great time of year it is right now.

I just cut the grass last night and looked around at nature...man made and natural. And it all looks so nice. Grass and trees are green. Birds are everywhere (I like hearing the twittering of purple martins). Lilacs and rhododendrons are blooming. The Japanese Maple tree is blood red.

The temperature is perfect, so I have been taking a lawn chair out under a dogwood and enjoying reading with a glass of sun brewed tea.

I continue on shoveling rocks and am about 3/4ths done with that. The area where this is going on needed some attention, so I made a border using some granite stones, mulched around the rose inside the border, and watered. That's the Rio Samba rose. It has had 4 gorgeous flowers so far and currently has 2 big buds ready to open. Not an aphid in sight, nor any black spot. I chose wisely!!

Friday, May 06, 2005

One week ago today

One week ago today I was in bed with excruciating back pain. I was thinking that death was better! During the week I took Doan's pills, soaked, relaxed, and stayed away from Tae Kwon Do. I visited the chiropractor 3 times this week.

Today, I am sore from the adjustments, but SO much better. In fact for the last 2 nights I have even worked in the landscape a little. I am removing a gravel walkway that is about 3 feet wide by 10 feet long by 6 inches deep. All that gravel is being moved to a separate gravel driveway that I have where rain runoff has created a trench. The work requires a hard rake, 2 shovels, a hoe, and a wheelbarrow. So far I have moved 2 barrows full of gravel and have been filling the trench. The place where the gravel is being moved FROM will be filled in with grass and just mowed. It was too far away from the house for me to consider consistent weeding, and the weeds were taking over coming up through the gravel. Better off with grass.

I move 1 barrow a night. In a few more nights it will be done. I do not want to overdo it and be back in bed in agony. In total I have spent maybe an hour each night, and I do stop and smell the roses as I go.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

On the mend

Yesterday and today I went to the chiropractor for adjustments. I'm doing better, but am now sore from the adjustments. Still have to go tomorrow too. This type of thing happened to me once over 20 years ago when I rode a mechanical bull and fell down roller skating, straight on my rear, on the same weekend. The muscles tightened up so much that they pulled things out of alignment and pinched the sciatic nerve. That bothered 1 leg tremendously. This time was my whole back. All I could think was "kill me now!!"

The chiro says to apply heat and do light stretching. I'm not thinking of Tae Kwon Do right now. So, I will SIT and pull weeds and do a lot of laying down, soaking, reading, etc. The weather is beautiful for lounging outside.

The lilac is open and the rhododendrons and peony are opening. I saw baby praying mantis(s?) all over a shrub yesterday. Every year in summer I see one LARGE praying mantis and in early spring I can usually find the egg sack. Are they territorial? Is that why it seems I only have 1 in the summer time?

There is a particular type of weed that I have become FOND OF pulling. I wish I knew what it is called. It is SIMILAR to a dandelion, but is not a dandelion. The root comes out easily and the weed is quite leafy, which requires space. That means that just a few weeds take up a lot of space, and since they're easy to pull, a lot of space is cleared quickly. Why can't all weeds be like that?

Monday, May 02, 2005

A dismal weekend.

My weekend was basically shot. On Thursday I went home with a really sore lower back. It had been hurting all day. Friday morning I couldn't get out of bed. I tried but the pain was tremendous. I actually screamed in agony and fell back on the bed. I called a friend, who came over with some Doan's pills. After about 3 hours I was able to get up, VERY SLOWLY and painfully, and at least get around. I have been taking the Doan's pills every 6 hours as directed.

Today my back is much better, but I can't sit for very long. I took off on Friday and Monday. The whole weekend was spent resting, reading, and dealing with the pain and recovery. Today I went outside to enjoy the sunshine. Walked around the yard and pulled a weed here and there as necessary. I made sure to bend at the knees. All the plans I had for the weekend were put aside. Now that I'm on the mend I need to make sure not to work too hard. And I plan to keep the Doan's pills right next to the bed just in case.