Monday, September 28, 2015

Working on the apiary

We finished up the biggie mail box today.  I needed to paint the support board and the retaining wall needed a little tweaking thanks to the snow plow.  Sometimes I think that the snowplow guys have a competition to see how many mail boxes they can destroy or tweak.
Then we moved on to the apiary.  We currently have one hive but the plan is to add two additional hives in 2016 and 2017.  The area behind the barn offers protection from the cold winds and from driving rain which usually comes from the west.

The area behind the barn is also rather quiet.  Once I finish stripping the paint and painting we will probably rarely go back there.
I have started adding to the flowers in my yard by planting more fall blooming flowers such as asters. I also read that Joe Pye Weed was a high nectar plant so I purchased a couple of those.  My yard currently has a lot of phlox so I will transplant a lot of those to the area behind the hives and also to the south side of the barn.  I've noticed that the bees and butterflies love the phlox flowers.

During the summer we purchased a small shallow cement bird bath that we will move back to the area behind the barn.  I read that honeybees need fresh water and to use a sponge so they can land and not drown.

Our yard has sidewalks with slate embedded in it and as we dismantle the old swimming pool, I've saved every large piece of slate that I possibly can, but a lot of it just flakes off in thin pieces.  The pieces that I managed to save will be placed in front of each hive to keep it free from vegetation and also to make it all blend with the old sidewalks.

We Biggie Sized Our Mail Box

Sunday is a good day to work on the mail box since there is no delivery on Sunday.  We got a late start because we attended the Flint Firebirds home opener last night.  Flint has a great hockey history. For years our hockey teams did well and grew big crowds then it dwindled and eventually we lost our team and the building fell into disrepair.

But then thanks to the resurgence of Flint several people decided to buy a team and move them to Flint.  They also purchased the hockey arena which needed a lot of work.  Well they not only repaired the building, developed a great winning team, but also put together a great program.  Not every game will be a win or will it be exciting but if you have a great program it will still be an enjoyable night.

The music was great, the food was good despite the over abundance of mustard that R slathered on my pretzel.  Thank god they gave us rally towels because I needed it after than pretzel.  It was probably my fault because I broke with my traditional order of doing things at hockey games.  It usually goes like this......on my way to my seat buy a Kowalski or Koegel kielbasa with light mustard and light onion and a diet Coke and then make my way to my seat.  Watch the 1st and 2nd period. Between the 2nd and 3rd period I buy a large pretzel with mustard on the side.  Eat pretzel during 3rd period.  This is ALWAYS how I do it.  But last night I started with a pretzel and it didn't go as planned....LOL

But any who..the game last night was tied and went into over time and was still tied so it went to a shoot out which the Firebirds won.  The game was fast paced with the Birds having almost twice as many shots on goal.  We had great seats and the people who sat around us stayed seated except during the intermissions.

Onto the mailbox bigification. R took the broken mailbox support off and installed the new one that I ordered last month.  We modified the 2X4 that is inside the support arm so that we could attach it to the main post with long screws.  The support arm was then slide onto the 2X4 and attached with screws.  It feels like it is sturdier but only time will tell if it can hold up to the weight of the snow being flung by a speeding snowplow.

We then unboxed the huge mail box that I bought last year during a sale at Ace.  I need a larger mail box because I receive a lot of packages. Due to the size we needed to attach a support board to the arm.  By the time we attached the mail box to the board it was getting dark so tomorrow I will paint the board black so it will blend with the mail box post.

I've also started cutting back my perennials.  We have found that it works out best if we do a good fall clean up rather than leave it to the spring where we are at the mercy of the weather.

And finally......the Pope's visit was amazing.  I was raised Catholic and attended a parochial school in elementary but after I left home I no longer attended mass.  My husband is not Catholic but he really likes Pope Francis and so do I.  I think he gets it.  He comes from a science background and has been out in the real world so he knows what is going on out there.  He's upbeat and is about forgiveness but most important is that he cares for our planet and wants others to take care of our planet too.  So in the spirit of Pope Francis please try and recycle something his week.

And I leave you with this......

Friday, September 25, 2015

Exterior Decorative Vent Shelf

The ladder has arrived and we love it BUT it was a stressful drive home from the store.  A long ladder and a short bed truck makes securing the ladder difficult BUT watching the vehicles behind us stressed us out.  We took the back way home to avoid as much traffic as possible BUT you always worry that someone will not see the red flag hanging from the ladder OR your flashing hazard lights.
Having the tall ladder allowed us to remove the little decorative shelf that is under the exterior vent in the peak of the house.  This same decorative touch is on the garden shed as well.  When this side of the house was re shingled they did not do a very good job of re attaching the shelf, it was basically dangling on the side of the house.  Having it off the house will allow me to make a pattern of the bracket for later use.  It also allows me to sand, prime, and paint the shelf so that once it is re attached we will not have to worry about trying to paint it.

This side of the house has the rigid foam insulation added to the exterior and this makes the shingles sit higher than the vent trim. We think if we had a piece of trim to the edge of the vent that this will allow the shingles to butt up against it rather than sit higher than the vent.

The vent and little shelf will be more noticable once the shingles are painted dark grey and the shelf and vent is painted bright white.  Currently it is painted the same yellow as the shingles and you really do not even notice it.

I spoke with a two window companies today.  The economy must be doing really well.  The first company wouldn't be able to come for an estimate for 3 weeks and then drawings would be another 4 to 5 weeks and then the build would be 5 months.  Ahhhhhhhhhh no.

So I called a second company and their guy was out to lunch and would get back with me.  I'm still waiting.

The flag pole company told me it would be 3 weeks before they could get out to the house but they would call before they came.  They showed up today (3 days later) but we weren't home and the driveway gate was locked.  Where's the phone call? I also gave them my email address and said to shoot me an email if they couldn't get me by phone.  When the guy did finally call, he was sitting in my driveway outside the locked driveway gates.  I asked him why didn't he call first and he said it didn't say to call first.  I told him to hang on and I would try and contact my husband.  I called R and he left the project he was working on and was back at the house in 7 minutes.  I had called the guy and told him R was on his way but he apparently left anyways despite telling he would wait.  At this point I don't even think it is worth calling the company back to voice my displeasure.

I added a WiFi booster and everything seems to be working great now.  I have full strength and everything seems to be working fine, again.  I ordered the Netgear WiFi Range Extender from Staples online using Ebates, Staples Rewards $, and a $5.00 coupon for signing up for text coupons.

I'm already close to $90 in rebates for the next quarter and I still have until November 11th before they mail out the next check.  If you are planning a vacay and use some of the more popular online travel sites, make sure you check out Ebates for additional savings.  The only thing better than a vacay is a vacay where you saved money.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

13 Holes and I'm not talking golf!

Sorry for the lack of posts but ever since the Internet outage last week, I've had a very weak or no signal at all.  Comcast has had me swap out their wireless Internet modem but that hasn't boosted my signal at all.  My theory is that they lowered the signal strength.  Why am I skeptical?  Well, every time I talk to a Comcast rep they ask me if I want to upgrade.

Despite the lack of signal (I need to be within 10 feet of the modem) we have been busy busy busy. First we removed the shingles from the family room/library on the west side.  Guess what we found? Thirteen holes that were left behind when they added the insulation back in the 1960's (guesstimate). R fixed or filled the holes with styrofoam.  That should help keep some of the cold air out of the wall cavities.

The new shingles look great but the real improvement will be when the new windows are installed.  I finally found a company that build all wood double hung windows with weights.  I will call them tomorrow and set up an appointment.  Fingers crossed that they can come sooner than the flag pole people who won't be here for three weeks.  I am not sure how long they will need to remove our flag pole, refurbish it, and then re install it in another location.

Two days ago we started removing the shingles on the south side.  That side has rigid foam insulation on top of the sheathing so lucky us, no holes to fix.  The windows on this side are in very bad condition.  How is it that the original windows that are close to 100 years old are in good condition but the 1960's installed after market windows are rotting away.  I will not mention the manufacturer but it is a very well known company.  I just wish they would have left the original windows in place but hopefully after we get the new windows made and installed, no one will suspect that they are not original.

The driveway drain is working!!!!  We still have that tree root to deal with and some dirt but for the most part it is cleaned out and the rain doesn't appear to back up.

The tall extension ladder STILL has not arrived.  Not only do I need it to remove the paint from the peak on the barn but we will need it to remove the shingles on the south side of the house.

In between all this I had a hair appointment and a doctor appointment.  Of course I got a flu shot but I forgot to mention that I probably need a tetanus booster.  I need to go back in two weeks so I'll get it then.  My blood work came back all screwy so he took me off all my meds except Zetia.  He said absolutely no more anti inflammatory meds (I've had arthritis since my teenage years) because the blood work showed that my kidneys were being affected.  BUT I think it was actually the fact that I ate about two cups of almonds the day before my blood work.  OOPS!  I've been reading that they can interfere with some meds and that you should never eat A LOT of them at one time (besides the huge calories!).

And lastly.....I've been edging the driveway, weeding the flower beds, and planting the flowers that I purchased on sale.  We hope the added high nectar flowers will help the honey bees and butterflies. There has been an increase in Monarchs this year so we think our milk weed patch is helping.  This past week we also saw three blue birds and a hummingbird.  It's been a great year for birds.

Monday, September 14, 2015

I must be real tired

I'm fighting a sinus infection but I didn't think it was affecting my performance until tonight.  I turned on my laptop and was checking my emails when I lost my Internet connection.  This used to happen all the time because my laptop location was a long distance from my modem.   I remedied that by moving my modem to the inside of a cabinet that is very close to where I use my laptop.  But I guess that I forgot about that and went to the old location and there was nothing there but a dangling coaxial cable.

OMG someone broke into our house and stole our wireless modem.  OMG what else did they steal?  I ran to my jewelry box and everything was there including some cash that was sitting right out in the open. Wow.....stupid burglar.  Why take a wireless modem when you could have had jewelry and cash?

R was already asleep so I had to wake him up to tell him.  He is not computer savvy at all and doesn't want to be, either.  Which is actually good because then I am not the least computer savvy person in the house.  But even he, in his half awake condition, said "didn't you move that?"

Geesh....there it was.....right where I put it.

So anyways here is a run down on what we did and need to do tomorrow.

We removed the fascia board and eave trough.

R repaired the 3 holes.

I burned ALL the dead branches.

I finished mowing the back yard.

I trimmed the magnolia bush because it was rubbing up against the house.

Tomorrow we need to pick up more shingles and some deck screws that R uses for miscellaneous projects.

We will reinstall the fascia board and start installing shingles on the right side of the window.

I am starting to get antsy about the ladder.  How can it be taking so long?

Today's interesting discoveries.  Not only old honeycomb from honey bees but an old wasp nest. Isn't it amazing how they make their wasp nest?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Holes under the shingles

We got a late start today because of the drizzle.  It wasn't  a rain but heavier than a mist.  If it hadn't been for the low temps we might have braved it, but it was just too cold.

So once we got started we shingled away on the left side of the window and then pulled off the shingles on the right side.  It was during the shingle removal that we found two fairly good size holes at the top of the wall.  They were both crudely cut so it was intentional and not rot or animal related. And the biggest question is why didn't they repair the hole up when they were done.

It is amazing the number of holes and broken sheathing that we have found and repaired during our re shingling project.  It definitely helps to explain why the previous owner had such high heating bills. Of course all the disconnected heat runs and misaligned trunk line duct work also added to the problem.  One by one we fix these problems all in the hopes of making the house more energy efficient and comfortable in the winter.

Sunday's plans include finishing the mowing of the backyard, burning some downed branches from the last storm, fixing the newly discovered holes, and maybe a little more paint removal on the back of the barn. Nothing exciting but all necessary none the less.

Friday, September 11, 2015

What happened to summer and shingle update

Three days ago it was 96 degrees and today????? 64 and cold.  It's a bummer that summer is nearly gone but it is great shingle installing weather.  It is also great grass growing weather. I couldn't finish mowing the front side yard and had to finish today.  I couldn't believe how much the grass grew overnight.
The non draining drain has been cleaned out a little more.  We found a tree root that grew on top of the asphalt and then down the drain.  We have been working on loosening the root ball and as the dirt dries out the roots move a little bit more.  The real test is when it rains again and we can see how fast the water goes away.  (The drain is actually more cleaned out than the photo shows.)
We have now moved around the corner and onto the front of the family room/library.  I've already purchased all the needed pieces to add an exterior weatherproof outlet box.  I bought the grey version and it is nearly an exact match to our exterior paint.  Happy dance!

The ladder we ordered to finish the barn update still has not arrived.  It's a shame because it is perfect heat gun weather.  Not too hot and not too cold.
We've hit the mother load of discounted perennials.  Today we bought three different colors of phlox, Stokes's Aster, Joe Pye Weed, two colors of Tick Weed, and three pots of a really cool plant called Turtle Lips....LOL  Believe it or not I have not purchased any hostas.  I guess that is what happens when you already have over 200 different varieties.  It makes it difficult to find one that you do not already have.
 Turtle Lips
Stoke's Aster 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Shingle Update and a Drain that doesn't drain

The shingles are almost all installed on the short meter wall.  We have two rows left to install but they should go fairly fast.

R installed several new pieces of step flashing where the old flashing was rusted and rotted through. After the step flashing was fixed we re installed the fascia board.  The fascia board is make of PVC so it will ever need painting nor will it rot from water and snow.

We had a real gully washer yesterday so we knew we would either be very pleased or very disappointed in how the drain handled all the rain.  I was able to scoop out a lot of the mud with my hand.  This gave me a chance to feel around and I was able to locate the pipe opening that takes the water away to the pond behind the house.  I was also able to feel that the pipe is full of roots.  I pulled some of them out but some were bigger than my pinkie finger so we will probably have to use an auger to clean it out.  By the end of the day the water was about half gone.

This is a great time of year for growing grass with the warm days and cool nights.   I leveled all the low areas that I filled with dirt on Sunday, picked out any rocks, and then added grass seed.  

Monday, September 7, 2015

Shingles and a Drain

Rain is in the forecast for all of Tuesday and Wednesday so we are in a rush to get the shingles installed so we can re install the eave trough to handle the rain.  Also, I would like to have the newly found drain completely dug out before the rain but I actually doubt that I can finish that on Monday.

Today I was working in the back behind the barn and R was working in the front on the shingles.  It was funny that just about every hour I would stop and start walking towards the front and R would also have stopped and would be walking towards the back.  I guess after nearly 34 years we are in sync even with our break times.

I removed the grate and started digging out the dirt.  I have absolutely no idea how much dirt is in there and whether we will also need to clean out the drain pipe.  It was a total shocker that there was a drain under the sod.  I knew that there was some area of asphalt here and there so it was not a shocker to find an entire driveway but a drain???  That was a real shocker.

The shingles on the meter wall  looking great.  We both absolutely 'hate' the old shingles and the light yellow paint.  R doesn't like yellow at all but on the other hand I love the right shade of yellow on the right style of house.  Our house is neither the right style nor was it painted the right shade of it was a double fail.

I probably will not scrape up anymore sod until later in the week.  My chest muscles actually sting when I lift any weight with the shovel.  That probably means I over did it but lucky for me there are plenty of other projects to do.

The kitty is back home and she is pissed.  She had to stay two and a half days.  The first day she was extremely wound up and it was too late in the day for them to start the procedure so she had her procedure the next day and because they needed to really keep her sedated she stayed an additional day.  

She hid in the barn for a day but today she was sitting on the deck waiting for both lunch and dinner. But she wanted nothing to do with R, which is funny because he is the animal person.  Animals love him.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Cutting Retaining Wall Blocks and a Driveway Surprise

Yesterday while it rained, we drove to Home Depot and picked up two more retaining wall blocks so that we could finish our retaining wall behind the barn.  We had an extra cap block already so it was an inexpensive supply run.....$3.22...if only all the supply runs were that inexpensive.

This is how the wall looked before we trimmed the block and cap.  After marking the pieces, we use a nail and a straight edge to scratch a line, we used a wide masonry chisel (similar to this one) to score the block on all four sides.  Take your time and try to get as straight of a line as possible.  This step may require 2 or 3 passes to make the scored mark deep enough, roughly 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch. Use a wide chisel because it helps with keeping a straight line.  Once the line is complete, slightly tap on the waste side of the line all the way around the block.  Do this several times.  You will notice a change in the sound once the block starts to crack.  If everything goes correctly, it should break along the scored line.  The trick is to go slow.
Here is the finished wall.  The new exposed surface has the same rough uneven finish like the front of the blocks.  Cutting the blocks to the correct size, instead of leaving a staggered stepped effect on the end, gives you a nice finished professionally installed looked.  It's not difficult and even if you make a mistake the blocks are not that expensive.

Check out this Youtube video of how to trim a cement block.  This guy is good.  Of course he is hitting it harder than we do because he obviously has a lot more experience. But it gives you an idea of how simple it is to get a nice custom size cut.

Sasha approves.
I removed more of the remaining sod off the newly found driveway when the shovel hit something metallic.  Buried treasure?  Nope.
Looks like a drain.
That area of the driveway is low so it makes sense that they wanted to stop the water from running into the barn when it was located at the former location.

Tomorrow I'll sweep away the dirt and take better photos.  The soil was quite wet and I was trying not to let too much fall through the grate, so I didn't mess with it too much.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Installing the cap block on the retaining wall

The day started out with a little excitement.  On Monday the semi feral cat that recently had 7 kitties, had an appointment for a spaying.  R knew he would never get her back into the kitty hauler after last week's vet trip for shots.  So Sunday he didn't feed her during the day and then placed her food in a live trap.  He figured if he had to he would just take the live trap with cat to the vet.

On Monday when R got up at 7AM, the cat was sitting right next to the live trap and all the food was gone.  We still haven't figured out how Ms. Houdini Kitty was able to pull off that trick.  So we were back to the drawing board on how we would get her to the vet.

So this morning R was on the deck petting the kitty when he realized that the kitty hauler was right there and open and the kitty wasn't paying much attention to what was going on.  So with one hand he grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and the other hand he grabbed her rear hips lifting her up and dropping her in the hauler before she knew what hit her.  R was scratched and peed on but the kitty is at the vet spending the night and tomorrow will get her procedure.

R said she was LOUD at the vet. Luckily they said that they would give her a little something to relax her. We are just pleased that she is there.

So when R got back home he had to take a shower and clean his scratch marks AND relax a bit before he started working on the shingles.  I guess maybe the vet should have given R something to relax him.  It was a traumatic morning for both the cat and R.

It was a hot one today and R had some difficult cuts that made it slow going.  I installed the cap blocks on the retaining wall.  We have several caulking guns of which we have one that we use just for adhesives like Liquid Nails.  The other guns we reserve for caulk and products that we can clean up with soap and water before it dries.

I left the tube of adhesive sit in the sun for 30 minutes or so to make sure it was soft and would easily come out of the tube.  I then cut off the end with a utility knife.  I like to cut it back far enough that I have a large opening so the adhesive can come out without a struggle.

Some fancy caulking guns come with a little pointed probe that folds out and can be used to pierce the foil inside the nozzle.  The caulking gun that I was using was an inexpensive one so I just used a long nail.  Make sure you poke through the foil several times.

I started with the cap block that was right against the barn foundation.  I used three or four good dollops of adhesive.  The adhesive doesn't set up right away so you have some time to position it correctly.  I then moved on to the next one and so on.  I had two cap blocks that set slightly lower than the others so I just added a little extra adhesive to raise it up a bit.

Tomorrow I will back fill behind the wall.  We also decided to add one more block at the end of the retaining wall.  We already have an extra cap block so we just need to buy two more retaining blocks. R has been saying all along that it needed one more block so I guess he was right.

I then went back to scraping the driveway.  I am so close to being done.  Just the center portion is left but that area is the thickest.  Those sod pieces can be heavy so I have to cut them into small 6 inch squares.  The loose dirt was picked up and I used it to fill two holes in the front yard.

As I was leveling the dirt in preparation for some grass seed I noticed a cool breeze and thought ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.  That was until I looked up.  A big storm was coming fast.  We had all of about three minutes to pick up everything before it poured.