Saturday, March 25, 2023

Plants for the Front Lawn

We dug up the area between the sidewalk and the driveway, between Fuzzy and the house.  And then put down some old granite pieces to form a walkway from the driveway to the sidewalk.  But so far we have no plants to replace the lawn.  Linda decided that some Texas Sedge would do well there.


As it happens we still have one stump to dig up in the West lawn from one of the elm trees that died after the Big Freeze in 2021.  And that area generally has been planted with Texas Sedge (and Inland Sea Oats), and at the moment the sedge is doing really well.  But I'm going to need to destroy it to dig up the stump, so rather than destroy it, we decided to transplant it from the west lawn around the stump to the front yard near Fuzzy.

We dug up an area between one and two feet out from the stump.


and transplanted the sedge we dug up to the parts of the front lawn next to the bed edging near the house

and to the area closer to the wall that holds the dirt around Fuzzy.

Linda also got some Cedar Sage to put around the bed at the base of Fuzzy.

On both sides of the little rock wall.

And some Coral Berry plants for just in front of the bedroom, on the other side of the sidewalk.

Taming the Jungle

Back in 1985, when we moved into the house, there was an area in the backyard which we left sort-of native.  It was surrounded with a stone edging and contained several original growth trees.  When we put in the sprinkler system, we did not extend it into the jungle.  But at one point, as we were doing early landscaping, a nephew designed and installed plants to create a two level view -- Nandina on the bottom and a taller bush (I forget what) on the top.

Over the years, the Nandina grew and flourished.  It eventually grew up and took over the space of the taller bushes and seems to have pushed them out.  And now Linda says that Nandina is not a native plant; it's considered invasive and should not be used.


So we have decided to remove it from the jungle.  Our first thought was to use the tree branch loppers and just cut the Nandina stalks off at ground level.  But in addition to the taller stems, there is a lot of just foliage.  The chainsaw is ineffective since most of it just seems to bend and move out of the way.  A hedge trimmer, on the other hand, seems to work pretty well on the foliage and leaves behind the taller stems, which can then be easily cutoff with the loppers.

This exposes the actual trees growing in the jungle and gives a start to re-doing the entire jungle.

Another couple of days of clearing out the Nandina gets everything pretty clear.


This exposes a handful of stumps -- a couple large,  most fairly small.  We cut those off at ground level.  We also try to get the stubs of the Nandina stems as close to ground level as we can.


Thursday, March 16, 2023

Maintenance on the Sliding Door to the Deck

We noticed some time ago that the weather stripping on the sliding door to the deck from the living room was starting to come apart.

This is an Andersen Door, so we went to the Andersen web site to try to determine what piece needed to be replaced.  They call it a "gliding door", not a "sliding door".

According to their information, what we needed was the Interlock Weatherstrip.

which comes as a kit, the Interlock Replacement Kit, which contains the Active Panel Interlock and the Stationary Panel Interlock.  $46.81 from their parts department in Minnesota.  To make sure that we get the correct set, there is a set of numbers in the upper track that identify what we have:

Unfortunately, their computer system could not understand these numbers, so I had to call and talk to someone.  He took the order.  The only issue was what color.  I know the inside is an Oak, but the outside is sort of a grey?  That was fine, we got the order.  Turns out there are two greys.  A light grey Sandtone, and a darker grey Terratone.  We have Terratone, and they sent Sandtone.  But it is almost not visible, so we went ahead.

They seem to have redesigned the Interlock, so both pieces have to be remove and the two new pieces put on.  And a small part of the stationary door needs to be modified to allow the new design to be installed.  There is a very well done video showing how to replace the Interlock, called "Replacing an Interlock Weatherstrip on Gliding Patio Doors (Frenchwood and Narroline) | Andersen" on Youtube, that shows the whole process.  Plus there is a printed guide that comes with the Interlock Replacement Kit.  It is almost enough to understand how to do the work.

The main work is with replacing the two pieces on the stationary and active panels.  Since the new pieces use the same screw holes as the old pieces they can be positioned pretty easily.  But there are little plugs and pads that go on the top and the bottom which are more problematic.  The video and instructions basically say, remove the old plugs and pads and install the new ones, but do not give a detailed picture or video view of how that should be done.  The head dust pad, for example can go on the door panel or on top of the interlock piece, and it is not clear which it should be.  Similarly they send two Sill Dust Plugs -- one for a right hand door and the other for a left hand door, but really do not indicate how to tell which one to use.  It goes at the base of the stationary panel, which can be on the left or right depending on whether you are looking out from the inside or in from the outside.  Since all the work is done from the inside, I assumed we have a left hand door.  Oh wait, does the left/right refer to the stationary door or the active door? 


There were other unstated issues.  Since the active panel needs to be taken off, the door is open for the time it takes to do the repair.  We picked a warm day, so that there was no heating/AC issue, and although it does not say so, you can leave the screen door on all the time, which takes care of the bugs. 

The instructions say to take off the oak trim on the active door, but if you look, you see that the only reason you have to do that is because the interlock piece wraps around the corner and under the trim.  Since the old and new interlock pieces are the same thickness at that point, I could just pry the old piece out from behind the trim and jam the new piece under the trim, without removing it.

Also, the door was unfinished under the old interlock piece, so we took the opportunity to apply a coat of poly-urethane to finish it.

The whole process took about 3 hours. 

But it also exposed that the weatherstripping on the other side -- the jamb side -- of the sliding door also needed replacement.


There are two pieces of weather stripping -- the exterior one and the interior one.  I thought I only needed to replace the exterior one, but for some reason ordered the interior one (Andersen Windows part 264140, $23.37 including the new glue plus shipping), so I had to go back and order the exterior one (Andersen Windows,  part 2641416, $17.71), and figured I may as well replace them both at once.   The description of doing that is easier than the practice of doing so.

First you remove the old weatherstripping.  It is glued on, so I used a putty knife to get it started and then just pulled it off. 

Then while the instructions said to remove any excess glue, it was not clear how to do that.  They said to use a clean cloth and alcohol, but that just seemed to clean it -- nothing seemed to remove the old glue.

Then it is simply applying the vinyl to vinyl adhesive to the weather stripping and putting it in place.  That was not too bad for the outside piece -- the main problem was trying to hold the weatherstripping while also applying the glue to its entire length while not touching it to anything, and then slipping it into place.

The interior piece was more difficult.  Not having paid quite enough attention to how the previous piece was attached, there were at least two ways to place the new piece, one of which looked right until it was in place and then was clearly wrong.  In addition the interior weatherstripping is less complicated, hence lighter weight and tended to keep slipping down the door as I tried to apply it.  Maybe I should have started at the bottom and went up, instead of at the top and went down.  And there is always the question of whether I am putting on too little or too much of the glue, which is only revealed by it not sticking well enough, or having too much glue oozing out as it is pressed in place.  In the meantime, it becomes apparent that the glue dissolves both pieces of vinyl, at least a little, to bond them as the solvent evaporates, so this will not be easy to repeat.

But it is done and is definitely a tighter fit, enough to make the door harder to open and close.

Compost and Nematodes for Back yard

There are spots in the back where it continues to compress and sink, and just as a part of taking care of the lawn, I figure it's good to put compost on the lawn.  So I ordered 3 cubic yards of dirt.  Professional Mix from Whittlesey.  Total was $309.92.  That was $148.50 for the dirt and the rest sales taxes and delivery.

They dumped it in the driveway.  I then carted it in the wheelbarrow around to the back yard.

Then in the afternoon, I spread the dirt from the little piles to more or less evenly cover the back yard.  The aim was to get 1/4 of an inch of topsoil/compost.

This was timed to try to take advantage of some rain that should be coming.

And another way to use the rain is to help spread beneficial nematodes.  We bought a container from Barton Springs Nursery, and sprayed it all around the front and back yards. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Removing the Solar Panels

 For over a year now, we have had problems with our Solar Photo-Voltaic system.  Every now and then, for no apparent reason, the circuit breaker in the electrical panel is tripped, disconnecting the solar system from our electrical system and effectively turning off the solar system.  The only explanation I can come up with is a transient fault with the inverter.  I can find no one to confirm this, and no one to replace it with a new inverter.  So we have decided to just get a new solar system.

But to do that we have to take off the old system.  The system consists of 4 basic parts -- the panels, the inverter, and the two cut-off switches.  Everything was installed in 2006, so it's all 16 years old, but the panels still seem to be turning out electricity just fine.  So I posted on Craig's List what I have and that I would give it away to whoever would be able to use it and would help me take it off the roof.

 I got a reply from Dr. Danger who lives down in Lockhart on a cattle ranch.  He had been "studying solar" for a year or so and has a small off-grid system, so he should be able to put it to good use.

Dr. Danger and two of his friends showed up this morning.  First thing we did was to use both cut-off switches to disconnect the system from our electrical system.  Then we went up on the roof and after some experimenting, figured out how to take off the panels.

The panels are in two rows, wired in series.  They are held down onto the rails by 4 clips, two on each side, near the top and the bottom. In addition, they have a copper ground wire and a power wire running from panel to panel.  The ground wire is held in place by a set-screw, so we back that off, and the power wire from one plugs into a plug on it's neighbor.  So starting at one end, we can run down the panels, removing the clips that hold them in place, then lifting up the bottom end to get access to the wiring at the top, removing the ground wire and unplugging the power wire.  The panel can then be moved off the roof.

After removing all the panels, the framework is held in place by nuts and bolts, so removing those allows the rails to be removed.

Down at ground level, we have the switches and the inverter.

With the two cut-off switches in the OFF position, the wires can all be disconnected and the inverter and the first cut-off switch removed.  This leaves the second cut-off switch, the two City of Austin electric meters and our circuit breaker box.

Now the house looks pretty much like the solar system has been completely removed.

But there are little brackets that held the rails that are embedded into the roof.  These will need to be removed when the roof is redone, but removing them now might cause the roof to leak, so we just leave them for now.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

New Light Fixture for Kitchen Table

 It seems to me that the light provided by the kitchen table light fixture was fading -- it was probably my eyesight, not the light -- so we got a new light fixture.  And my (adult) children said it looked really dated.  It was from 1985.

The new light fixture was from Costco, a OVE Decors Joakim 5 Light Chandelier. $179.99 (plus tax).

It took about an hour to replace. Once it was working, it has five light LED bulbs, each of which puts out 500 lumens, so we have a total of 2500 lumens.

The work to replace it first required cutting the circuit breaker for the lights -- circuit 36.  Then I could safely remove the old fixture, leaving just the wires and electrical box in the ceiling.

Then I could wire up the new light fixture and put it in place.  It comes with 3 extensions that allow the fixture to hang low (or from a tall ceiling), but we just used one of them to make it as short as possible.

Once the fixture was up, I could put in the light bulbs and the glass surrounds.  The glass surrounds actual hang onto the light bulb, and are not attached to the fixture, so if we need to change a light bulb, unscrewing the bulb also will remove the glass surround. 

But the bulbs are supposed to last 13.7 years, so that may not be a common problem.  If we need to replace the bulbs, it will probably be because they put out a "warm" light at 3000K and are listed as "amber tinted" bulbs, which gives the overall appearance a yellowish -- amber -- tint.