Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Trouble with a Bradford Pear Tree

 Yesterday was a quiet and peaceful day, but when we got up this morning, there was a tree (branch) in our driveway!

The limb had just given way.

So, we used a pair of loppers and a chain saw to trim it all down and then cut it up.

This left a pile of branches and wood pieces that we will need to get rid of but it moved it off of the driveway.

We may need to do something to seal over the spot where it broke off, and the neighbor suggested we may need to take the next branch up from this off too, but for now ...

Digging up the back half of the front yard, Part 4

 Eventually, we got the basic trench all the way to the back of the yard, up against the wall that we built last year.

Now we turn and start digging along the wall to the other side of the tree stump.

And then we turn and dig towards the stump itself.

The top layer of dirt is what we brought in last year.  Below that is the mix of leaves and dirt that we dug up, and below that is the layer that the roots grow thru.  The roots have a relatively narrow layer of dirt to grow in, maybe 8 inches deep.  Below that is a layer of rock.  Crumbly rock, but rock. So if we dig into the 8 inches of dirt just above the underlying rock layer, we find the tree roots.

Removing the roots -- using an axe and a chainsaw as necessary -- gives us a thin layer of dirt to scrape off.

And shoveling that dirt out of the trench (and into the growing dirt pile by the street) exposes a layer of rock that we will need the jackhammer to break up and remove.

As we dug the dirt up and separated out the rocks, we added leaves and grass to increase the organic content of the dirt, trying to make it good soil instead of just plain dirt.  We got bags of leaves from the neighbors, but now have used all of those up.  We stored the leaves at the far end of the trench, but now it is fully exposed, and we see there is also a layer of rock to remove from the other end of the trench.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020



Chibi was one of Kathryn's cats, but developed cancer.  So she joins Inari and Jita and Pepper in Zone 2.

Zone 2 has filled out a lot since Inari and Jita were buried in 2014, but we continued along the kitchen/garage wall.  This put us into the Monkey Grass.

But Monkey Grass is resilient so we expect it will fill back in, over time.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Digging up the back half of the front yard, Part 3

 Digging up the rest of the front yard will be difficult.  There is no shade now that the tree has been cut down.  So we will need a sun shade.  Luckily, we have one left over from a beach trip about 20 years ago.

Then we can start digging.  First we need to find the sides of the area that we dug up before.  So we start digging in what we think is a corner of the part yet to be dug up, trying to find the edges.  We were badly off, but eventually we find what we think are the edges -- no big rocks in the dirt, the dirt is fairly soft to dig, and uniform in composition.

Now it's just day by day making this pit a bit larger.  Finding big rocks as we do and pulling them out.

Repeat and repeat.

Widening the hole.

Removing the rocks, and the dirt, and then digging further and deeper.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Window washing

Washed the windows today.  Or rather, finished washing the windows today.  It took two days to wash them, 17 the first day and 13 the second.

While the windows could all be washed from the inside, that would leave the screens as they are, so instead we washed them all from the outside first.  We used the Windex Outdoor.  Listed at Home Depot as "32 fl oz Blue Bottle Outdoor Sprayer", $7.98

We ended up buying two bottles.  The first bottle did the first 17 windows (four hours), then we had to go get another bottle to finish it off the remaining 13 windows (three hours), a week later.

We first sprayed each window down with just a jet of water as a pre-rinse.  Then we used the Windex Outdoor to spray it down with a "soap" solution.  We finished with another clear water rinse.  This was done outside, using a garden hose for water, so it went thru the screens to the outside of the windows.

Then, after all the windows were rinsed, washed, and rinsed on the outside, I went inside and (a) cleaned the inside of the window, using regular Windex, and then opened each window up to wash the outside, again using regular Windex.

I tried using a squeegee, but it left streaks, so mainly cleaned the outside and dried them with old rags, wash clothes and diapers.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Irrigation system water usage

Our water bill is still very high.  For example, the most recent one was for 23,000 gallons, double the previous month, and 10X our normal winter usage.

So the question is, what is our current irrigation system water usage? We have asked this before, in July 2014, and October 2017.

  We ran each zone by hand, for the same time as what the schedule says, and our results are:

Zone Gallons Time
Zone 1 15 30  drip
Zone 2 100 30  drip
Zone 3 194 30  drip
Zone 4 624 30
Zone 5 32 30  drip
Zone 6 642 30
Zone 7 278 20
Zone 8 673 30
Zone 9 360 20
Zone 10
Zone 11
Total 2918

So figure about 3000 gallons per usage. And that will go up when we add back in Zone 10 and Zone 11 once we finish the front yard excavations.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Digging up the back half of the front yard, Part 2

Digging out the front yard is hot, hard work.  I thought I might be able to make it a big easier by cutting the area up into a matrix of squares by trenching it left to right and front to back.  So I rented a trencher.  Again.  The cost was $207.89 for 4 hours from Home Depot.

I tried this back when I first started to dig up the front yard in April 2018.  As with that attempt, it takes hours to borrow the pickup to get a hitch so that I can pull the trailer that the trencher is on, and then to return everything.  This time I got somewhat more trenching done, but not more than probably an hour of actual work.  After making one trench, I got too close to it when trying to make a second, and the trencher "fell in" the trench -- one of the two treads got in the previous trench and lost traction.  I eventually got it out of that, but was so flustered that I drove the trencher -- backed it up actually -- into the pit that I had already partially excavated.  It took hours, literally hours, of work to get it out of the pit.

But before I started, the  yard was pretty uniform.

and after all that work, it is now pretty torn up.

So we will have to see how much, if any, help this has been.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Replacing the kitchen faucet cartridge

The faucet for the kitchen sink is starting to be more difficult to get it to turn off completely -- it prefers to drip a little, although if you jiggle the handle enough, you can get it to stop completely.  But it suggests it's time for a new one.  It was installed in 2011, so 9 years.

Our kitchen sink is a Delta Ashton 19922-SSSD-DST we know from our blog post for when it was installed. Naturally it is no longer available, but the cartridge that controls the flow of water is available: Delta RP50587 Single Handle Valve Cartridge, from several sources, including Home Depot.

To replace the cartridge, we first remove the handle.  There is a little button with blue and red to indicate cold and hot and we can pry it up.  Under it is a 1/8 inch hex set screw.

Loosening this set screw allows the handle to be removed.

The dome like stainless steel covering just unscrews -- it's just decorative.

At this point, be sure you have turned off the water supply, both hot and cold, to the faucet.  The next step removes the cartridge.  You can turn the water off at any time before this.

Once the dome is removed, it exposes a big copper hex nut.  Using a big wrench, remove that. 

Now the old cartridge just pops right out.  Replace it with the new cartridge, and reverse the steps -- big copper hex nut, then the dome, then the handle, and tighten the set screw, and replace the little button.  Turn on the water and test it out.

Looks just like it did before, and with luck, it will be another 9 years before we have to do this again.

A leak in the Zone 3 underground irrigation system

Linda found a wash-out near one of the rose bushes, and by turning on Zone 3, it was clear that this was a leak.  Digging down at this spot, it appears that a T-connector had broken -- not sure why -- and would need to be replaced.

This required cutting out the T-connector and the attached tubing and splicing back in, using straight connectors, a new T-connector.

Flushing the system and trying it out, showed another leak at another location, on the other side of the rose bush, where Linda had planted a milk-weed plant.  That was just in a straight part of the tubing.

And fixing that one, and then testing the zone, showed a third leak, a bit further from the other two.

This repair was just cutting the leaking part of the tubing, and then inserting a straight connector into both ends.  It leaks a bit, but that's what drip irrigation is supposed to do, so we won't worry too much about it.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

A "door" in the fence

We occasionally need to get "behind" the fence, mainly to trim out stuff that starts growing there -- volunteer trees, and such.  I need more than one slat to gain access.  Two might do.  Three certainly is enough.  I was making use of the need to replace slats occasionally to also gain access, but thought I probably should just solve this problem on it's own.

So the idea is to take 3 adjacent slats and make them one large piece, so that it can be removed and replaced as one.

We first remove 3 slats.

We then re-attach, temporarily, the center slat with the new one.

Use the other two new slats to make sure that this center slat is positioned correctly.

We take one of the old slats that we removed, and don't need anymore, to cut out two short sections.  Each slat is 6 inches wide, well actually 5 1/2 or so, and we want it long enough that it extends across the back of all 3 new slats, so about 15 inches long.  We need two 15 inch long pieces -- one for the top and one for the bottom.

We position the two short sections so that they sit on the 2x4 cross rails for the fence, centered behind the one slat that is attached to the fence.  Then put the other two new slats, one on each side and attach them to the short section, not the 2x4 cross rails.

Do the same at the bottom.  Now the whole section of three slats is attached to the fence by just the one screw  in the middle slat.  You can use another screw at the bottom, but in our case, it slides behind the stone edging and in front of the lower railing, so it stays in place.

The three slats are all held together by the short pieces cut from the extra slat, and can be easily repositioned, because the short piece rests on the cross railings.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Solar Lights for the Back Yard Deck Stairs

The dog has started to act uncomfortable in coming up the stairs from the back yard to the deck at night.  Linda suggests it is because of the contrast in lighting between the deck (with its two new bright LED light fixtures) and the yard.

So we purchased two LED lights to shine on the deck stairs.  Since we have no power to this location, these are solar powered LED lights.  The stairs face South and have no shade (at least until the Pecan tree gets much bigger), so this should work well.

We bought two Solar Step Lights from Amazon (JackyLED brand, $12.99).

and installed one on each side of the stairs.

The biggest problem was the installation.  There are two screws which must be exactly the right distance apart (7.6 cm according to the instructions), but we traced the back of the light onto a piece of paper and then drilled holes using that as a template.  However, despite drilling holes for the screws, the screws were made of such soft metal that they broken when screwing into the deck wood.  Remember the deck is ipe (iron wood), and very hard.  Luckily I had alternative screws that worked better.

The lights themselves seem to work really well -- very bright and last most of the night.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Digging up the back half of the front yard, Part 1

With the tree gone, we have the opportunity to dig out the rock in the back half of the front yard.  Last year, when we did the front half, we left the back half, so as not to disturb the tree.  But it died anyway, so we can dig out the back half and have a deeper dirt level for the entire yard.

Without the tree, the front yard is really quite exposed.  It gets bright hot Texas sun for much of the day.  So we put up a sun shade to try to shelter the area we are working in.

The first problem would seem to be to locate the area that needs to be dug up.  We started at where we thought the corner of where we had already dug up would be, but were way off, but moved over more towards the street and the barrier wall between us and the neighbors and found it.

Then we expanded that hole back towards where we had started,  down to where it exposed the underlying rock layer.

And we then expanded the hole by digging back towards the house.

The white PVC pipe is just being used to try to define a straight line to delimit the edge of where we are digging.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Remove Spanish Oak Tree from Front Yard

After all the work to try to make the big Spanish Oak in the front yard happy, it died.  It appears that it died last Summer (2019) from too much heat and too little water.  We thought it might just be dormant for the Winter, but come the Spring, there was no new growth -- no leaves.  Occasionally branches would fall to the ground, and they were really brittle and dry.

So the decision was made to remove the tree.  We started by removing all the lower limbs, which just confirmed our belief that the tree was dead.

 Then we took the top off.

This produced a large stack of wood that we gave away on Craig's List, and an even larger stack of small branches and twigs which the City took away in  Large Brush Pick-up.

The remaining part of the tree -- the trunk -- was 12 feet tall and 60 inches around (at the base).  It took some 3 hours of work to remove the top branches and cut down the tree.

This leaves a stump

but the yard is now clear of the tree and we can start digging, to remove the stump and any rock under the dirt.