Monday, May 24, 2010

Digging in the corner of the yard

Not much to report for this weekend. I was able to dig for a couple of hours on Sunday. I'm starting in a new corner of the yard. The objective is to clean out this section of rocks, and upgrade the soil, so we can move the oak trees from the area by the box over here.

I'm starting in the corner and working my way out. I'm still a foot or so away from the actual fence line, so that it holds the fence in place while I dig. Once I get it in the condition I want, I'll pour an edge wall with rocks on top next to the fence, to keep things from digging in or out under the fence.

So far it looks like a classical dig. Lots of smallish rocks -- smaller than a watermelon -- and a couple of really big ones. I've pulled them out of the hole, but I still need to move them out of the way. I'm not sure yet how much dirt is under the big rocks; I'll work more on it next weekend, with any luck.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Changing the Stovetop

Ever since the house was built, it's had a Thermador electric stove top. It's showing its age. One light doesn't work any more, and the pans under the burners are in bad shape. I've replaced them at least twice, but still they get baked-on spills. And Linda believes that a gas stove is better, so we are going to switch it out for a gas model.

Consumer Reports lists the Sears Kenmore Elite 3249 as its top ranked 36-inch gas cooktop, and after looking at several places, we choose it. We were unable to find one in stock, that we could actually look at, so we went over to Sears to order one. As it happens, just the day before, someone had returned a new one, and so they had an open box of that exact model, in Stainless Steel, on display for half-off. So we took it.

As you might expect, things are not perfect, as it was missing the installation instructions. With some work, I found a PDF file of the installation instructions on-line and printed them out. I started the installation early on Saturday and finished up about 8 pm, so it took all day, and three trips to Home Depot.

The first problem was to remove the old cooktop and make the hole in the counter larger. The depth is okay, but we are replacing a 30 inch cooktop with a 36 inch cooktop, so I needed to make the hole wider.

Once that was done, I dropped the cooktop in place. This looks like it is almost done, but most of the work is still ahead.

The obvious work is attaching the gas line to the cooktop. The builder had put the gas line in, but just capped it off. I had to remove the cap and put a cut-off valve on. Then I could run the line from the cut-off valve to the cooktop itself. That was actually fairly easy. You have to be careful to seal all the connections, and then test afterwards with soapy water to look for any leaks (which will make bubbles).

The really difficult part was providing it electrical power. The electrical cooktop had a 220 volt direct connection. This same circuit runs the wall oven next door to the cooktop. It would be possible to use half the 220 to get the 110 that the gas cooktop needs, but not safe. Since the oven runs on the 220 circuit, I had to just cap it off and seal it away.

There are some 110 circuits that run around the counters to provide power for kitchen appliances, so I tapped off one of them and ran a wire down under the cabinet and put in a new outlet. That was the most difficult part -- running the extra wire down in the exterior wall behind the cooktop. But it didn't have to be pretty; it just had to be right.

So with these tasks complete, we now have a new gas stove top.

The next project in the kitchen should be new counter tops. Granite, I assume.

Another spot to dig -- the South Pit

I dug back to the fence line along the right side of the electrical box, getting all of the stump and it's roots out. Going all the way down to bed-rock, I found the trench that runs along the fence (from the corner of the Bamboo Grove that holds the electrical, telephone and cable wiring.

Then I filled it back in, at least partially.

This has accomplished the basic goal for this section at this time -- removing the stump, clearing out the rocks, and making the soil better by increasing its organic content. I've mixed a lot of last Fall's leaves into this dirt as it was shovelled out, and then shovelled back in.

It appears that we will want to move the remaining trees. These are Shin Oaks -- a small native oak for Central Texas. It likes full sun, has low water requirements and likes the limestone based soil. So it's a nice tree, and we don't want to lose it, but it's sort of in an inconvenient place. My idea is to move it over to the corner of the yard.

So that will be the next area to dig. We will dig this area up, to get down to bedrock, clean out the rocks and improve the soil, then move the Shin Oaks over to that area and see if we can get them to live there. That will allow me to continue the excavations by the electrical box.

This area is where the compost pile was -- we've moved it now to back by the Bamboo Grove. Also we have had a couple of trees planted in this area, so the soil is somewhat disturbed and uneven; after the trees were put in or out, the soil settled. So part of the goal is to even up this part of the yard. We will need to be careful, since it will settle after we are done.