Sunday, March 30, 2008

Since The Last Time

I completely finished the handrails on the deck this weekend. I am very pleased with the look and cost.
Just a little close up so you can see the details better. Now, I need some outdoor furniture and a grill! This is a cross section of how we ran the cap. That is just a five-quarter deck board on the top. All of this is fastened down with galvanized screws or spiral nails. You could use stainless steel fasteners but they are very expensive. Either one will not cause a discolored spot on your lumber and of course, won't rust.
I love the shadows that the rebar casts.

I did not get a whole lot accomplished this weekend but did get some much needed landscaping done. I'll show you that later.

*Lyle Lovett/ Joshua Judges Ruth album

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Dark Hole Again

Last weekend we pumped out the spring repeatedly in an effort to remove as much of the sludge that I allowed to wash down into it. The recent heavy rains had the underground springs moving swiftly which helped tremendously. The spring would recover quickly each time we pumped it down, in fact, the pump could never quite overtake it, so it kept all that muck stirred up good and allowed it to get sucked up and out. I was quite fascinated to see the bottom of the spring. The photo is not very clear but maybe you can make out something about it. The spring consists of a vertical shaft that goes down about 10 feet. There it meets a horizontal shaft of about the same diameter that flows into and out of this vertical shaft. They both appear to be lined with big boulders of sandstone. There are 2 other separate horizontal shafts up closer to the surface that allow water to flow out a little bit down the hill. This is partially where my little spring creek comes from.
You can kind of see how muddy the water was as it came out. In this photo, the rate of flow had slowed down somewhat due to the line clogging some. At times it spewed water 2-3 feet in the air as it left this hose. We emptied the spring many, many times over the course of the day, sometimes letting it recover for an hour or 2. We removed a lot of sand and muck and also leaves and roots. During one of the sessions I saw an enormous crawfish running around in the bottom! He was probably wondering what the hell was going on... there had been water here a minute ago!!
I was ecstatic to see how fast the water flowed into the spring at the bottom. It would refill in just a matter of minutes. Of course, I know it slows down at times, depending on how dry it has been but I think this is a very good source of water. Anyway, I think it did a lot of good. I have been checking the spring on and off this week and it is getting clearer and clearer. In fact, you can see clearly 16" or so down into the water. I think I may do one more good cleaning session maybe next weekend, before we reconnect the supply lines. The alternative spring is working fine; the water is very clear and the filter has been able to clean itself properly with this clear water. I set it to purge itself once a day for about a week to get all that sediment out from when the water was bad and it seems to have cleared up. So, things are looking up. Knock on wood.
This 3 day weekend has been great and we have just about finished with the deck handrails. Tomorrow I need to finish up the rebar at the entrance and apply a coat of linseed oil to the whole deck and it will be done! Time to start bringing out the potted plants and such. I will post some photos of the finished product a little later.
Hope you all have a wonderful holiday weekend if you celebrate Easter and even if you don't! The weather here lately has been a beautiful celebration of spring itself. Lots of things budding and blooming and sprouting. My tomato seeds that karl sent me have sprouted and I am very excited about that. I shared a couple of the varieties with the Switchman, as he is an avid gardener also, and he reported to me the other day that all of his had come up. He seemed quite happy about it. I can't wait to taste these new varieties.

*Cowboy Junkies/from album "Open"

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Don't Fence Me In

I finally started on the deck handrails this past weekend. Any free time I have had lately has been spent trying to fix problems or kill bugs etc. so I was real excited to finally get to start something new. However, it did not get off to a good start. I woke up Saturday with a rare but potent migraine headache. I only get them once or twice a year but they are usually doozies when I do. It was storming outside anyway so I guess it was as good a time as any if I was going to have to be sick so I doped myself up enough to go to sleep (sorta). Mid afternoon I awoke with some relief and it had quit raining so I took the water pump I borrowed from work down to the spring and Allen came to help me start pumping out the muddy water. We did a lot of good I think and the spring is much clearer.
Anyway, we started on the deck Sunday and got about halfway. I brought home 2 big loads of leftover rebar from work and incorporated that into my handrails. It is an effort to save money and have something that is a little different. You know, think outside the handrail. With a little imagination and luck finding a lot of scrap material you can come up with some unique things. Of course, it is very strong also. But, I cannot take all the credit for the design as I saw something very similar to this in a magazine. I think I have mentioned before that out here I don't have any building inspections but I do have certain code requirements for the insurance company. Handrails and smoke alarms I think are the two main ones. So, the International Building Code states that: Porches, balconies or raised floor surfaces located more than 30 inches above the floor or grade below shall have guards not less than 36 inches in height. Required guards shall have intermediate rails or ornamental closures that do not allow passage of a sphere 4 inches in diameter. Now, it goes on to say that you cannot have horizontal rails that result in a ladder effect but I am going to try to get around that one. Almost every handrail I have ever installed on a commercial site (houses included) has had horizontal rails and nothing was ever said.

The posts were installed one at a time and the rebar threaded through as we went, with the longest pieces of rebar passing through 3 posts. This will be capped with a horizontal 2x4 and a 5 quarter deck board on top of that. I liked the use of these bent bars to do the corners and it is very sturdy. After everything is up I will come back and clean the rebar up with a wire brush and spray it good with a matte polyurethane. I am anxious to get this completed so I can get all the potted plants on the deck now that it is warming up. I thought I would plant some of the morning glory seeds that karl, over at Pile of O'Melays sent me, in a big pot and let it roam around the handrail.
Here you can see how the posts are attached to the deck. I notched the deck boards to let the posts come in flush and notched 3/4" out of the posts themselves. This lets the rebar that is centered in the posts fall pretty much right over the outer edge of the deck. The posts are through bolted to the band although in a few places I am going to have to use lag screws because the layout hit directly on some of the joists. Not a problem though. Allen put that little bevel on the bottom of the posts just for a little nicety. I get a three day weekend this week so I am very excited to get all that time to work on the house. I can finish the handrail in one more day I believe, now that all the posts are drilled, and have the other 2 days to work on the inside of the house maybe. The next big project is siding. I am so sick of looking at that Tyvek.

Lots of stuff going on now that the days are getting longer and I really want to get started on the garden too. There is still so much to do I get overwhelmed continually but try not to think about everything. I have made a list and just try to do one thing at a time. I saw my brother and sister a couple of weeks ago after a long absence and it shocked them a little how gray my hair is now! Don't know if it is the house or just genetics.

Friday, March 14, 2008

It's Raining Again

My creek is up quite a bit. I can hear it's rushing waters from the house. It has been raining here pretty regularly and we are all very happy for it. I hope it continues until we get out of this rainfall deficit.
In between rain storms we have had some gorgeous spring days. Temps in the 60's and 70's. On these days the house warms up to around 70 degrees and will stay stay at that for most of the night. I do have to let the heat come on some in the wee mornings hours but the house seems to retain heat well.
I am trying to expand my collection of daffodils. These are planted in an open area as you approach the house. I like the fact that they all seem to face towards the driveway, as if to greet me when I come home.
I hope to be working on deck handrails this weekend. I'll post any progress I make on that.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Train Kept A-Rollin'

Today was one of the coolest work days that I have ever had. It's not very often in construction that we, the construction workers, get to witness the occupation or use of our buildings. A lot of times we will be sent to others jobs before the current one is over or when we get it finished the owners just say, hey, that's great, now get out! But today was different. This is a shot of the building when I got to work this morning, just as the sun is coming up. I think the lights are cool.
See, today was the day that they brought the first locomotive in for fueling. There are 2 tracks inside the building and right now only one is connected but the other is all ready for use. The railroaders have been coming over to the building a lot this past week, checking everything out and looking so everyone was very excited today. All the big wigs from Atlanta came and they let us stop work and watch them bring the train in. I realized after I saw these photos that I should have gotten one alongside the train. There were actually 2 locomotives but you can't see that. They were fueling them up as we left. These things are enormous when you are standing next to one in a building. Anyway, it was a great day.

* there were many songs to choose from about trains but I liked this one by the Yardbirds, one of my favorite groups as they are one of Clapton's first bands.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Too Many Dirty Dishes

A lot of people have asked me if I eat out all the time because I don't have a kitchen. I sometimes cook for the guys at work and they are completely confounded that I am able to prepare decent meals without a stove but it is really not a big deal. I guess it does take some getting used to but with a little thought you can prepare most any meal with just a few things. I do try to keep it simple, mainly because I just like foods that are cooked quickly (the meals feel lighter) and because I am pretty busy, as you might guess, and need to get the cooking over with. I like to cook a lot, which surprises the guys too. They think that any woman that is "liberated", as they like to say, would not like to cook. They're so funny. I try to cook a full meal most evenings and that means a meat, at least one veggie (usually two) and one carb, usually rice or couscous etc. This is a really easy recipe for just about any cut of pork. You take about 2 T. honey (local beekeeper), 2 T good, stone ground mustard, a little garlic, about a T of olive oil and salt and pepper. Mix all of that up and pour over the pork. Roll it around to coat the meat and bake for about 30 minutes for a tenderloin or pork chops etc. A little longer if it is a bigger roast or so. As you can see, I don't really measure or time stuff; you just know when it's right. You may need to make more sauce for a larger piece too and sometimes I'll add a teaspoon of hoisin sauce.
I use this toaster oven, which works great for baking lots of things. The guys kid me and say that I'll never be able to cook in a full size oven again. I have made them many homemade biscuits in this oven. Plus, the toaster oven works wonderfully to warm your plates on as you are cooking. I mostly use my own pottery to eat off of and stoneware will draw the heat out of food if it is not warmed up itself. I have a microwave and a little, one burner propane cooktop and that is about all I need really. Of course, I don't cook for several people either. I am going to buy a nice grill soon for the deck and that will help a lot.
Several of the younger men I work with say that their wives don't cook, in fact, don't even know how. How is this? Mama never really taught me much but I guess I just wanted to know. The guys often have to go home, bathe their kids and cook supper. I don't understand these younger women. There is nothing wrong with these men doing some of this but the women ought to know how just for their own sake. They seem to have an attitude of, oh, he'll do it for me. I have talked to some of them myself and so it's not just what the guys are telling me. It seems some of these younger women think that being a feminist means sitting on your butt and talking some man into doing everything. I guess I lost my handbook when I was little because I never have figured out how to find a man that will do all these things. But what these women don't realize is that they are dependent on someone else then for their well being and that is a bad thing. All women, and I guess men too, should know:
1. How to cook at least a small variety of meals.
2. How to sew a little, at least to make repairs on garments.
3. How to mix one good drink.
4. How to change a flat tire.
5. How to properly drive a nail.
6. How to weld.
7. How to wash clothes. You'd be surprised how many don't.
8. How to grow something you can eat.
9. How to balance a checkbook.
10. How to write a good thank you note.

Was this all a rant? Did I leave out an item that you think everybody should know?

*title is an old blues song by Albert Collins.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

What's The Matter Here?

This is the creek that runs from my spring; it is supposed to run clear. I think my efforts to prevent more mud from washing into the spring have been successful, however, so much is already in there that the recent rains just keep it stirred up as the water eventually makes it way through it's underground crevices and into the spring. Last Sunday it got so bad that I have just had to temporarily abandon the spring and jump over to another one. There are 2 springs on my land. The other one is very clear but it is a surface spring; the water just bubbles out from beneath a tree. It is a large volume of water but it is more exposed to the environment. Any deer or possum walking by can just poop right in it or whatever so I don't want to stay on this water long. It is my plan to help the spring purge itself by pumping the water out and as the spring fills back up, pump it out over and over until it is clean. I don't know if this will work but I have to try.
Last weekend also had me fighting it out with the wasps. It warmed up some and I came home to find about 20 wasps in the house. I had had it with those damn things so it was war for about 2 hours. I think I got most of them and stopped up the bottom of the clerestory wall so any more can't come down that way.
I still have to fix the spring and I may have to redo the media in my water filter but things are improving. It is kind of two steps forward and one step back all the time. This weekend I got the posts for the deck handrails and have them cut etc. They are almost ready to start installing. Tomorrow I must attend my brother and his wife's 25th wedding anniversary party so I will not get anything done on the house but I don't see them much as it is.
It is gradually getting warmer here so I planted a row of lettuce and 2 rows of brussel sprouts the other day after I came home from work. I plan on starting my tomato seeds soon. I am very much ready for warm weather and longer days.
Another carpenter left the job to go to another one so I am one of 2 left. Not sure how much longer I will be there or where I will go afterward. The Switchman must have noticed that I was looking kind of down at work Monday (after the wasp fight, etc.) and he yelled for me to smile as he went by on a train. I guess I didn't do a good job of it because he frowned and asked did I not have anything to smile about? I just shook my head as he was out of earshot at this point. About an hour later he came out and found me to ask what was wrong and so I told him some of my frustrations. I tried not to rant, lest he think that I am more of a nut than he already believes. He did offer a sympathetic ear though and cheered me up some.
Hey, speaking of switchmen and trains... did you know that locomotives are full of sand? I know you know, Woody, so you don't get to say! We installed a huge sand silo at work and we heard that it was somehow used for the trains but I did not understand until the other day that the locomotives actually have big compartments up front and carry it with them!

*10,000 Maniacs/ In My Tribe album

Monday, March 03, 2008

Mama's Hand

I took advantage of this past weekend's great warm weather to wash some big things and give my new dryer a break. This is an old quilt my grandmother and mother made (and probably an aunt) many years ago. These old quilts have a certain quality that quilts made today just don't have. They feel much weightier for one thing and I like that. This one was made with actual cotton lining whereas the ones made today use some kind of synthetic crap. Of course, the pattern is a little rough and not as artistic as, say, the one I have hanging in my bedroom ( ) and the stitches not as fine but I love it anyway. One fond memory I have as a child is sitting on Granny's front porch in the summer with her and my aunt Corinne and watching them piece quilt squares or snap beans. Her porch was very shaded and made of concrete so it was very cool there and we would have plenty of iced tea. Quilting is one art I have never been able to get the hang of so I have always had a good appreciation for the work that goes into them.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


I am now posting from my house!! The final connections were made yesterday by the utility company so I am now totally connected! Well, to the Internet, maybe not to reality. I bought a new computer, a new TV and a cool new set of stainless knives by Kitchen Aid! I am more excited about the knives than the TV. I don't care for TV much but do watch a couple of things so I only subscribed to the very basic cable service, which is only like 10 channels, most of which are crap. I do get about 30 music channels though, which I didn't expect, so that is a pleasant surprise. The computer I bought is great! It is so lovely! There is a great little computer company here in town where I just had them build me one. In fact, they are about a half a mile from me. I could walk through the woods to their place. Very nice people and they came and set it all up for me which is a good thing. I mean I could do it but it is nice to have someone who really understands that stuff to get it going. The name of their company is O'Gosh Computers and they do have a website. If I were more organized I would have a link for you right now but I am still fumbling through everything. My photo editing program has changed and how I download to Blogger so I am still trying to figure all of this out. The text of the post is not aligned over to the left either and I cannot seem to change it and I am not able to view the photo that I am trying to post so God only knows what this post will look like. I don't know if this is Blogger or something in the computer. I suspect it is Blogger being a butt right now.
Things are going better here although most items are still in the process of being fixed. I plan to do a little more work on the spring today and try to run some trim inside the house. I have been a little slack lately on the house but much pick up the pace some.