Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Top dressing the back yard lawn

 We continue to try to improve the lawn in the back yard.  The grass was installed in 2014 and 2017, and top-dressed in 2018, so it seems that now is a good time to do it again.

We ordered 4 cubic yards of Screed Organic Compost from Whittlesey Landscape, which, with delivery, came to $293.60.

The back yard lawn is just starting to green up after the Winter.

We use the wheel barrow to move the compost around to the back, and distribute it around.

Then this has to be more evenly distributed by raking it all smooth.

The same was done to the part of the yard between the kitchen and the raised garden.

Rain is predicted to help wash it in and settle it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Adding a Whole House Surge Protector

 Out power went on and off multiple times last week, and while we had no apparent long-term problems as a result, it reminded me that we could.  The main problem with power supplies seem to be surges, and so we have some of our stuff plugged into surge protectors, but things move around, and maybe it would be best to just protect everything.  And I've seen suggestions this can be done at the circuit breaker box with a whole house surge protector.

There was a discussion on NextDoor about this, and several people recommended Grayzer Electric, so I sent them a note. They wanted to know if there was room in our circuit breaker box -- it needs two slots.  So I sent them a picture of the circuit breaker box.

This shows the two empty slots at the bottom, right.

So they came out and installed an Eaton Surgetrap.

They put it at the top, in slots 21 and 22.  These were previously the Stove and Oven circuits, which got moved down to 37 to 40. 

That pretty well fills the circuit breaker box, with the exception of 20, the half slot at the very bottom of the left column.  (Also circuit 26 had a breaker, but is not attached to anything, and the wire inside the box is capped off, but must go to something?)

We now have an additional thing -- the little black plastic box below the circuit breaker box, which tells us the status of the surge protector.

The two little green LED lights at the bottom show it is working correctly.  If there is an issue, those should change.

At the same time, as long as he was already here, we had the circuit breaker itself changed for the Solar Grid Tie in slots 18 and 19.  This had tripped twice in the past few months for no apparent reason, so either it has just aged badly, or there is some other problem in the solar system that we will probably encounter again.

 Both items -- the whole house surge protector and the replaced solar grid breaker -- took about an hour and cost $316.24

Monday, March 1, 2021

Fixing the Air Conditioner Filter Access

 We had the entire A/C and Furnace system replaced last Nov 2020 and with it came a new air cleaning system.  They put in a 20x25x4 inch HEPA filter below the fan and other parts of the system.  Basically it is just a metal box to hold the filter below all the other components of the system.

It being 3 months since then, I figured I should check the filter to see how it is doing.  There is an access door on the front of the filter housing.

But when I went to open the access door, it would not open.  It was wedged between the floor and the fan sitting on top of it.  It seemed that the upper units had settled down on top of the access door, or the floor had expanded up, so that there was not enough clearance to allow the access door to swing open.

So I called Service Wizard, since they had installed it, and a guy came out, looked at it and said "Yep, it's stuck" but had no idea how to solve the problem.  I suggested that the floor, being plywood, could be sanded down to get enough room to open the door.  He agreed. And then left.

So I got out my belt sander, 80 grit sand paper, and ran it for about an hour in front of the filter housing, getting it worn down enough to allow the access door to be opened.  Then I sealed the newly sanded wood with polyurethane and, the next day, with Kilz primer (and as long as I was at it, painted the rest of the floor in the utility closet.

And I will order some replacement air filters.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Lost an Olive Tree

 We have two olive trees, one North of the raised garden and one South.  Neither has been doing that well.

But the South one is apparently doing much worse.  It had two main branches from the trunk and one of the rotted and fell off just a couple weeks ago.  Then we had the coldest weather ever here in Central Texas,  snow and ice everywhere for days. 



and the South olive tree is clearly not going to make it.  So I cut it down.

I will need to go out and dig up the stump, but that will require dryer soil, so it can wait.

The North olive tree does not look much better

but we will wait to see what happens in the Spring.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Digging up the back half of the front yard, Part 9

In the front of the ditch, we have a few layers of dirt and rock.

 But with just digging down and moving it out, we can get down to just a layer of rock.

And then we can apply the jack hammer to reduce it to rubble

And clear that off, to get a smaller set of layers of rock

Repeating this process leaves just a small ledge of rock at the bottom.


We do the same in the back half of the ditch.  We start with a layer of rock

and after repeated rounds of using the jack hammer and cleaning up the debris, we end up with having moved the ditch closer to the sidewalk, moving rock out and mixing the remaining dirt and dust with leaves and piling it up behind us.

Then we can move on to the next section, digging out the overlaying dirt.

mixing it with leaves, to improve the organic content, and putting it on the pile of dirt behind us.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Digging up the back half of the front yard, Part 8

 I posted the stump to Craig's List and over a few weeks, got several inquiries.  But then one day, late in the afternoon, a group showed up with a trailer and a pick-up and a winch, and after 3 hours of work, drove off with it, leaving me just the hole.

At this point there are two directions we can continue digging.  One is the section at the front, towards the street, up to the line of where we dug last summer.  

The other is the section back towards the house.  We've dug that down to the layer of rock that underlies the front yard, and have about a foot or so more to go.

This back half mainly needs jack hammer work, we think, so we decided to go for the front half first, since it would require just shovel work to start.

So first we dug down thru the actual dirt that tops the yard.

That exposed a hunk of rock.

Most of that was loose and manageable, so we were able to remove it.

And then with the jack hammer, we could go lower.

Then the rains came, and the snow, and further digging will need to wait until it is drier and warmer.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Digging out the Stump, Part 2

The stump is sitting on a pedestal of rock.  Flaky rock, and sometimes soft rock, but rock.  To get it separated from the rock, we need to either pull out the stump or dig out the rock.

In any case, it should be easier to do if the pedestal was smaller in diameter.  So using the jackhammer, and a pick, and a 12-inch chisel and hammer, I went around the stump, trying to dig out as much of the rock between the floor of the ditch and the bottom of the stump.

It may be difficult to see much of a difference, but notice the overhang of the root on the right hand side of the stump.

This small undercut is enough to get a jack (a pneumatic bottle jack) under that particular root and jack up the stump.  At first it is just an inch or two.  But that separated the stump from the floor of the ditch and broke loose a lot of the rock in between the two.  I could clean out the broken rock, making the undercut even larger.  Then I could move to a different side of the stump and do the same.  This substantially reduced the size of the rock pedestal holding the stump up.

Once the stump was raised up, on at least one side.  I could put large rocks under it, preventing it from lowering when the jack was removed.  Putting the jack on a similar rock, I could then jack the stump up even higher.

The higher higher the stump was raised, the more rock I could remove from under it.  I could also clean the rock off the bottom of the stump, making it lighter.

In addition to separating the stump from its supporting stone, by focusing the bottle jack on just the one side (the back), we could raise that side more and more, tilting the stump over.

Now, with the stump significantly tilted, we could throw a car tow strap around the stump, mostly on the "top" side.  

 The car tow strap was attached to a hand winch.

and then anchored on my car (which has a special bolt for towing).  The car was just used as a counter-weight.

By cranking on the winch, the "top" side of the stump was raised up even more

until eventually it was standing on its edge.

Then we needed to dig out some of the dirt that was holding it back, and eventually, we got it to tip over and out of the hole, so that it came to a rest out of the ditch, sitting on the dirt of the front lawn.

leaving a large hole where the stump had been, suitable for more digging, removing rocks, and general clean-up.

While this was presented as a fairly straightforward operation, it was, in fact, full of reversals (where the stump fell back down into the ditch) and adjustments to the straps, to the winch, use of the jack, digging out dirt and rock, and it was often not clear if it would work at all.  But it did.  The result was a stump out of the ground, and a big hole where it used to be.