Monday, November 20, 2017

Plant Grow Lights in Garage

Linda wants to be able to bring her plants in if it gets cold this Winter.  She has in mind a shelf with some grow lights over them.

So, first step, we got a 5-shelf shelving unit from Lowe's.  This is the Style Selections 72 inch high, 48 inch wide, 18 inch deep chromed steel shelving unit.

Then we got 4 Jump Start T5 4-foot strip/reflector fixture (JSFC4) from Hydrofarm.

We assembled the shelf unit with two shelves at the top, two in the middle and one at the bottom, and then used zip ties to attach the light strips to the bottom of the top and middle shelves.

and when it's turned on, we get two nice spots for the plants.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Garage Light Fixtures

We replaced one of the 3 florescent lights in the garage with an LED version in May 2015, the odd one back near the workbench.  Now we are having problems with one of the other ones, the two that are over where the cars park.  It may have been just needing new bulbs, but I have run out of the 4-foot florescent light bulbs, so I decided to just replace it with a new LED fixture.

In the last 2 years, the technology of LED fixtures has changed considerably. In this case, we bought a 4 foot LED Wrap Light from Commercial Electric at Home Depot ($49.97).  It has an output of 3600 Lumens for only 40 watts of power.

It took about an hour and a half to take down the old fixture and put up this new fixture in it's place.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Repainting (the outside of) the house

The house was painted in August 1993 and September 2002. While overall it's still in pretty good shape, there are places where it is clearly in need of a touch-up.

The house is mostly stone, white limestone, and so it's really only the trim that needs to be painted.  Originally, the stone was only on the first story, and there were 4 significant triangular eaves that were wood, and needed painting.  I've had two of those (over the bedrooms) removed and replaced with stone all the way up, so that reduces how much needs to be painted.  The main places that need painting are the triangular space over the garage, the areas over the garage doors, and the area over the breakfast bay window.

We had originally thought we would spray paint these, but our experience with the spray painter on the back porch suggests that might be at least as much work, so we resort to the standard brush.  Most of the painting was done with a 3-inch polyester brush.  We used a 1-inch trim brush for the trim right next to the stone, where we needed more control.

We started with the triangle over the garage.  This seemed easiest, since (a) we could stand on the roof, and (b) any drips went on the roof that (c) are hard to see, and (d) should not affect the function of the roof, so we did not need to mask before painting.

Then we moved to the side of the house, over the breakfast bay window.

While some of this area could be painted while standing on the roof over the bay windows, we also had to learn to paint using a ladder.  Paint, move the ladder, paint, move the ladder, ...  And we needed to mask the stone, to make sure that we did not drip on it.  This involved plastic sheeting stapled to the very bottom of the 2nd story wood.  Mostly this worked. 

We were unable to work one day when the winds were so high that it kept tearing the plastic off and blowing it into the yard.

With that done, we then turned our attention to the wood over (and around) the garage doors.

Again, using the ladder to reach these areas, a trim brush around the edges, and plastic sheeting on the cement, to keep drips off the driveway, we were able to get this done.

All this took about 2.5 gallons of Behr Premium Exterior Wood Stain, Semi-transparent, in Chocolate (ST-129), so we bought 3 gallons (one at a time as we needed them) from Home Depot ($35.48 a gallon).

Looking around the house more carefully, there was significant weathering on the fascia boards, so we used the remaining half-gallon of stain to cover them.  These were easiest to get to from the roof, rather than a ladder.  We did the fascia boards on the back

on the West side

and in the Front.

Originally, there was some shoe moulding around the garage doors, which instead of being stained, like the bulk of the wood, was painted to match the doors.  Part of the reason for being painted was that it was interior pine paint-grade trim.  We removed it and replaced it with 1x4 unfinished cedar, which matches the style of the rest of the trim.  (All the windows and doors have 1x4 stained wood trim.)  Doing this reveals that the two garage doors, while mostly the same size, are not exactly the same size.  This may be an issue when we replace the garage doors.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Refinish the Back Deck

The deck was put in in December 2003, refinished in June 2005, and then refinished again in October 2010.  Seems like a good time to do it again.

So first, I power washed the entire deck, to get it ready to re-finish.

This required removing everything from the deck.

Well, except the grill.  I just moved it around and worked around it.

As before we decided to use Australian Timber Oil Penetrating Finish (Natural).  It should have taken about 2 to 2.5 gallons, for about 600 square feet.  But we decided to spray paint it, instead of doing it all by hand.  We borrowed a spray painter from my son-in-law, Byrd,  and learned how to use it by sealing some of the fence. 

We needed to mask off all the house that was not to be spray painted.

 Some of the railing, and around the edges, I did by hand, with a brush.

Then once the spray painter was cleaned and flushed and primed, it went very fast, sucking down 3 gallons of the penetrating finish in just minutes.  I made another run to Lowe's to get another 2 gallons, and was able to finish the deck with that.  So 5 gallons (at $42.98 a gallon, plus tax).

Remove the plastic wrap masking, and wait a day for it to all "dry".

The clean-up of the spray painter (flush out the lines and the pump, clean them all down, fill them with "Pump Protector") and all the cans and plastic wrap and cardboard and rags and everything, took the rest of the day.

Basically two days work -- one to power wash it and one to re-finish it -- spaced a week apart (to let the power wash dry).

Monday, October 16, 2017

Irrigation system water usage

With the main backyard work done, and all the irrigation zones repaired (we think, at least for now).  I wanted to find out how much water we use every time we irrigate, by zone.  We did this before, in July 2014.

Our current usage is:

Zone Gallons Time
Zone 1 29 45 drip
Zone 2 131 45 drip
Zone 3 146 20 drip
Zone 4 248 10
Zone 5 57 45 drip
Zone 6 266 10
Zone 7 134 10
Zone 8 263 10
Zone 9 156 10
Zone 10 217 10
Zone 11 212 10
Total 1859
An actual running of the system, and reading the meter before and after it ran, only shows 1018 gallons used.  That would be only the non-drip zones, but still it seems too low.

Zone 3 Irrigation Repair

In trying to check what the water usage was for each irrigation zone, I noticed that Zone 3 used much more water than any of the others.  Zone 3 is an underground drip irrigation zone, with two parts -- one for the South bed, which now has Linda's second raised garden bed, and the North bed which used to have lavender plants (they died).

The South bed has a cut-off value for that bed.

and turning it off did not significantly change the water usage.

I did not originally have a cut-off valve for the North bed.

So I  added a cut-off valve for the North bed.

But then turning this off still did not change the water usage.  So there must be a leak someplace between the Zone 3 valve and the two beds.

Finding that leak, in the main supply lines way under ground is beyond my skill set, so I called American Irrigation Repair.  They came out and found the leak in short order .. how they knew where to dig to find it, I don't know.

The leak was right at a joint -- a coupling -- as the main supply line for the South bed came out from under the sidewalk.  The pipe had cracked right next to the coupling.  They said it was because the pipe on one side was slightly lower than the pipe on the other side.

Making an in-line repair has always been a mystery to me, and they did this funny out and back to both allow the difference in height and to get enough flexibility in the pipes to put them together.

And that seems to have been that.  $166.  Quick, efficient and done right.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Zone 10 Irrigation Valve Repair

When cutting the grass in the front yard, we noticed a "wet" spot.  A week later, we noticed it was both wet, and had standing water.  This is more or less where the charts show that the valve controllers for Zones 10 and 11 are supposed to be, so the suspicion is a bad valve controller.  And the only reason that a valve controller would leak, that I know of, is a bad diaphragm.

But the first problem is to find them.  Luckily, if the valve is leaking, then the wet spot would be the location of the valve.  So we found the center of the wet area and started to dig there.  Starting with a 2 foot by 2 foot area, we just intersected one of the boxes.  And enlarging it a bit, there was the other box on the other side of the hole.  The boxes are 23 inches apart -- center to center or rim to rim -- and the line between them runs basically parallel to the house or the curb in front of the house.  The one is 33 feet from the corner of the house (by the gas meter), and the other is 33 feet 4 inches.

Turning the water supply line to the irrigation system back on, we see water beginning to appear in the box for Zone 10.

So we dig up more around the valve, and take it apart.  Remove the diaphragm and take it Ewing Irrigation and Landscape Supply to get a replacement.  They wanted to know what type of valve it was from -- I don't know -- and they guessed an Irritrol 2400S.  $18.79.  Take that back home and it seems to fit fine.

However, in taking the valve apart, I removed the solenoid, and apparently lost the moving part of it.  I don't remember it dropping out; it doesn't seem to be anywhere in the lawn (I used the metal detector to look for it), but it's missing and the solenoid does not work without it.

Using the solenoid from Zone 11, I was able to get Zone 10 working properly; now Zone 11 doesn't work, since it is missing a (working) solenoid.

There was a solenoid with the Irritrol 2400S, but it while it fits, it does not work.  There are apparently 3 different types of irrigation valves (direct, indirect, and semi-direct), and while the diaphragm worked, the solenoid does not.  I was able to get an Orbit Replacement Solenoid Model 57041 from Home Depot which does work.

So Zone 10 has a new diaphragm and Zone 11 has a new solenoid.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Second Backyard Pecan Tree

With the backyard finished, and it being October, we can now put in the second pecan tree.  We had wanted two trees -- one to the East of center, the other West of center -- in the backyard, to create shade.  The first tree was planted in March 2015, before Summer started, and is a Pawnee.  It started at 53 inches tall, and is now (2 summers later) about 120 inches tall (still not a lot of leaves, and no nuts).  We planted that when the East side of the backyard was done, and now that the rest of the backyard is done, we can plant the second tree.

Again, we went to Berdoll Pecan Farm and Nursery to get the tree.  As with the first, this is a medium tree. $49.99 (plus tax).  But this time we got a Choctaw pecan tree.  We dug a hole in the spot reserved for the second tree, and planted it.  It took an extra bag of dirt, plus two bags of mulch.

We trimmed off one of the main roots that looked like it was circling around (from being constrained in the planting pot).  On the one hand, this says it was in the pot too long; on the other hand, it says that this tree really wants to put down a big main root; now it has the space to do that.  The objective is to get it established before winter, so that next Spring, it will be all ready to grow!

At the moment it is 59 inches tall, so half the height of the 1st pecan tree.  The paperwork says that it is 2 years old, while the 1st pecan tree should now be 4 years old.  Pecan trees mature at 7 to 10 years, so by 2025, we should have 2 mature pecan trees in the backyard.  We should get pecans from the first tree in 2019, and the second tree by 2021.

Update.  March 2022.  Sprayed both pecan trees with Malathion for  pecan phylloxeras.  Also spread Zinc Sulfate around the base of both trees.  Pecan trees are supposed to need zinc.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Fence Lattice for a Backyard Bed

Linda is busy working on filling in the bed in the center of the back yard, near the electrical box and along the fence.  One of the items she wants to plant is a vine, so she needs a trellis for the vine to grow on.

We are going to use a 4 ft. by 8 ft. wood lattice for the trellis.  To hold it in place, we first attach a couple of 2x4's to the fence, standing out, so that the lattice will be 4 inches (really 3.5 inches) away from the fence.  Both are attached by 1/4 by 6 inch lag screws, "standing up" on the fence.  One is screwed into a 4x4 fence post; the other is screwed into the 2x4 cross beams (behind the fence pickets).

Then the lattice is screwed onto the two supports.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Front Yard corner near Gas Meter, Part 2

With the border in place, we are ready to extend the River of Rocks from the fence/gate to the border.  We have a selection of flattish rocks that we have been putting aside from the work in the back yard.  We start by putting a couple in place near the gate.

Then we extend that with additional rocks, working our way towards the front.

We pick stones and position them to form the River of Rocks, but also to carefully conceal the valve for irrigation Zone 9, so it will be easy to find when we next need to.

Eventually, we have selected and placed rocks all the way back to the front border.

The next step is to dig out the dirt under each rock, so as to make it flat, stable, and level with the dirt.  The rocks closest to the gate have to allow the gate to be opened.  There are significant root issues from the Elm tree, so this takes longer than expected.

But finally we have all the rocks placed, and leveled.  We can fill in with dirt.

As a final step, we transplant monkey grass in-between the rocks.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Front Yard corner near Gas Meter, Part 1

Now that the Zone 9 and Zone 10 irrigation has been fixed (last blog posting), we can start to work on this corner of the front yard.

A long time ago, when we dug up this area before, for the French drain, we removed the small border that separated the yard from the beds.  Now we need to replace that border and continue it to the edge of the yard.  Continuing the border will make this corner by the gas meter an extension of the bed in the front of the house.  We will then extend the River of Rocks from the back yard out to the new border.

So the first job is to dig the trench for the extended border.

Then we pour cement into the trench to create a base and mortar stones in to create the border.  We want the stones to be rough-cut, to match the "rustic" nature of the existing border.  This ended up being more difficult than we remember -- all the stones we found were "sawed" and so smooth on two (opposite) sides.  Eventually we found some cast-offs, but instead of our normal 4x4, they were 8x4, and being cast-offs, somewhat irregular in shape. (Texas Wholesale Stone, $32.72)

But we adjusted the cement base to compensate for the irregular shape of the stones and mortared them in to create a smooth extension of the existing stone border, but twice as deep. (4 bags of Quikrete plus a bag of mortar from Home Depot, $20.35)

With the border in place, we then purchased a cubic yard of dirt (Whittlesey Landscape Supplies, $40.95) and put it in the newly defined bed, to fill in and smooth out.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Zone 9 Irrigation Repair

It turns out Zone 9 of our irrigation system was not working.  It took a while for us to notice, since the system runs in the middle of the night, so we did not see it not watering.  It may have been intermittent since in one case, it came on after leaving Zone 9 on at the controller for about an hour.  So I figured it was probably the valve.

First problem is finding the valve.  I eventually found it, after some trial digging, and looking at the old photos from when the area near the gas meter was dug up years ago.

I contacted American Irrigation Repair, since they had done good work on previous irrigation system repairs that are over my head, and they came out after about 2 weeks.

They agreed that it was the valve -- the wiring is okay, but the value didn't work, so they replaced it.  $223.61.

I took advantage of the need to replace the valve, to redo some of the plumbing.  There are two heads for Zone 9 that are for the front lawn.  All the others are for beds in the West Side and around to the back.  So instead of the previous T connection, they put in a 90 degree turn to go to the back of the house, only.

The next day, I trenched from the nearest head on Zone 10 -- for the front bed, near the corner of the house, over to one of the two heads for the front lawn, and connected them.

Then I capped off the part of the pipe near the Zone 9 valve, and now the two front lawn heads are on Zone 10, which covers this entire side of the front lawn. Zone 11 does the other side, between the driveway and the sidewalk.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Cleaning out the Blue Rock Pool

Back in January 2008, we finished the French Drain by creating a holding pond for the rain water runoff, filling it with rock and topping it with Mexican Beach Rock, creating the Blue Rock Pool.

Overtime, dirt washed down the lawn on the West side of the house and into the Blue Rock Pool, particularly when we had really heavy rains.  In theory, the Rock Retaining Wall, and the terracing of the land in the Shallows should have fixed that (plus raising the level of the rock topping the upside of the pond).  So if that is true, then it is time to clean out the Blue Rock Pool.  It is buried in leaves and mud, and even has plants growing in the pool.

The first step is to remove the layer of blue rocks.

That gets us down to the underlying fill rock.

and that needs to be removed and washed and then put to the side while we continue to dig the fill rock out of the pond.

Washing the rocks was not as easy as I thought it would be.  Eventually I settled on a screen over two wheelbarrow tubs, with an additional PVC structure to support the screen.

We dug out, washed and set aside rocks on the sidewalk, the patio, and even behind the raised garden.  There was a lot of rock.

The pond is a rough trapezoid, 123 inches by 64 inches, by 84 inches by 60 inches.  It varies from 21 to 26 inches deep.  That makes it about 86 cubic feet or over 3 cubic yards.

But eventually, all the fill rock is washed and put back in place.

We then put down a layer of weed barrier and covered that with the Mexican blue rock.