The back fence in the yard is really old. It was here when I got here in 1996, and hasn't seen any maintenance at all. Just the opposite, in fact. It's been weathered, weakened, and even attacked by huge roots from a feral weed tree that decided to grow right next to it. That tree grew for a long time, got tall, developed big, strong roots. That tree, with the help and cooperation of the neighbors, whose property it was on, is long gone. Fence is still standing, though.
As will happen, a few of the fence posts started rotting at ground level. One of the got bad enough that I had propped it up with a board. But it was still pretty fragile, and I knew that the next major wind storm would bring it down. Better to be ahead of the game rather than react postactively.
A couple weeks ago, I contacted the neighbor who shares that fence with me and he was willing to help fix it. He's a really good guy, bought the place and moved in at about 2010. Since he's been there, he's installed a small fruit orchard, a 6 by 8 ft hot house/greenhouse, and has had chickens. Regular homesteader. Cool!
We spent a few hours this past Saturday pulling out three of the worst fence posts and installing new ones. We set them in the same concrete as the old ones, shaving the new posts a bit to get them to fit right. Then we put down more concrete on top of the base to raise up the footing, minimizing the wood/earth contact, which greatly hastens wood rot.
On Sunday, Easter Sunday it was, we finished the job, reinstalling the sections of fence. All the while, we worked on preserving as much of the old fence pieces as possible. We were able to save, with a bit of a hack, all the cross beams, and we only replaced two of the dog ear fence boards. Total cost was only about $50. Not bad. We figure we'll get at least another 10 years out of this fence, certainly out of these posts. But there are some more posts and other parts that will need attention much sooner than that, but we left it for another day.
Here are some pics, with captions.
Here, you can see one of the main hacks. The cross beams got pretty beat up over the years, so we strapped them down to keep the wood together. The straps help anchor the beams to the posts as well as hold the splitting beam together.
This is another hack which is much less noticeable. It was tough to hammer a nail, or even place a screw into the bottom cross beam. I had some old sturdy angle irons, so we screwed one into the bottom to hold the beam. A hack on the hack was to use a piece of that plumbers tape strap, folded over once, as a washer since the screw heads were small enough to fit right through the holes in the angle iron.
We planned to reuse the existing post holes and concrete by cleaning out the remaining, decayed wood from the old post. You can see from the picture above, this particular post was set almost arm's length deep!
Here I am with my patented, underhand, between the legs hammering technique. Getting those nails into the bottom side of the bottom cross beam took a bit of creative dexterity!
Here is my latest installment of my new toy, our rain water catchment system.
Late last week, I scrambled to get the line from the supply pipe connected to the water tank, because there was a good, wet storm forecasted to hit our area. What did we get out of it, or better asked, how much roof runoff water did we collect? From this one storm, we got over two hundred gallons. The tank was nearly half full.
Here is a picture of it after a milder rainstorm came through a couple of days before.
The brackish appearance of the water is a result of two things. One, the inside of the tank is a bit dark, a bit green due to the color of the material. Second, there was a lot of pollen that the rain washed off of everything during that rain spell, and it collected in the tank, and especially on the sides of the tank. But if you look closely, you can actually see the bottom of the tank, which the white hose is resting on.
On Saturday night, the majority of the precipitation occurred, and I, with all the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning, was going outside to see how things were going with the system. At first, the pump was doing a very good job, running smoothly and quietly, and at the other end, water was gushing forth into the tank as expected. After a little while, upon a subsequent inspection, I noticed that the water was just trickling out of the hose, despite the pump running as usual.
Thinking that the inlet to the pump was getting clogged by leaves and debris, I opened the manhole cover of the cistern and saw that the water level was nearly at the top of the small tank, and the pump was working away. I rolled up my sleeves, unplugged the pump, got down on my knees, and tried to reach into that black water to see if I could unclog the inlet. But the water was too deep and I couldn't reach all the way down.
What I tried next was at the other end of the line. The hose is connected to the supply pipe near the tank via a brass hose bib, the standard kind that you use to attach a garden hose to and with which you can turn the water on or off. I turned the valve nearly all the way off then all the way on, then backed off just a bit, again, hoping that if there was something stuck at this end, the movement of the valve action would break it free. Immediately after trying this, I could hear the water flow increase, gushing into the tank. Checking it visually, I confirmed that the water was flowing back at its normal level, as only a half horsepower pump can do.
But again, a few minutes later, the flow reduced to an even smaller trickle. So again, I worked the handle of the hose bib and again, the flow rate was restored. If were to rain all night, I couldn't conceivably stand there, babysitting the constriction that is the hose bib. In order to prevent this from happening until I could fix it properly, I removed the hose bib and decided that any water the pump would send for the rest of the night would be spewed out onto the walk and the lawn. This seemed to have done the trick. The cistern drained and the water flow continued to remain at nominal levels.
By the time I figured out the problem and instituted the emergency workaround, the storm was breaking up and the rain had stopped. The next morning, I was the proud owner of nearly 250 gallons of reclaimed rain water. Now to figure out how to permanently hook the tank up to the supply...
The water tank arrived at the house safely the other day. There's a picture of it above, next to the house. Earlier today, I pulled it out to clean it up and rinse out the inside.
The image below shows the octagon frame that the tank will sit inside. My idea is that the tank needs to be raised just a bit so that I can water the garden via a gravity feed. So the guy at the pump shop where I bought the tank had an idea to build a frame that will contain pea gravel, then the tank can sit on top of that. It will be sturdy, flat and relatively level. I don't have to worry about the frame needing to support any weight since the pressure of the full tank will be directed straight down, not down and out. The frame will only need to contain the pea gravel.
In order to make that frame, I had to find out what the formula is for determining the length of the sides of a regular octagon if I have the diameter from the middle of opposite sides. Googling around, I found a formula I could work with and determined a length. Rita had the good idea to double check my work with a mechanical engineer friend, who came up with a) a simpler way to do the calculation, and b) an answer that was almost half of what I came up with. Good thing I checked!
I rounded up to lessen the waste of the cuts of wood, but didn't use my brain when making the cuts. I took 360 degrees and divided by eight (angles), which gave me 45 degrees. Well, if you have a couple of 45's, you get a 90 degree joint. I remedied that blunder by pulling out the table saw, setting the angle of the blade to 22.5 degrees (roughly) and removing some material that slightly shortened the outside length. Then things started fitting much more as I had expected.
A couple of screws at each joint brought it all together. Now to go calculate how much pea gravel I need (area of an octagon, anyone?).
As of today, our landscape project is officially done. Done from the contractor's perspective.
He and one of his foreman came by today to put some finishing touches on the post rock. He asked me if there was anything else to do, any questions or details to finish up. Other than adjusting the latch on the gate and moving one of the wine barrel planters, that really was it. I sat down, calculated what I owed him, cut a check and that was it.
It took just under a total of eight weeks. Compared to the whole house remodel, we were done quickly. It will be a bit weird NOT having guys showing up every day anymore, working on various things around the yard.
As expected, he asked me if I wanted his guys to come back every week or every two weeks to do maintenance. Now that I'm completely broke again, I told him I will get back to him when I'm ready for that. Rita, on the other hand, would LOVE to have them come to maintain the yard...!
One of the things that was part of the overall landscaping project was to finish off the inside of the patio cover. It was partially done during the major construction, the sections that are part of the house, but the rest was left raw with the posts and beams exposed. Our plan was to finish it off with the same knotty pine 8" tounge and groove planks. In the picture below, you can see the ceiling of the patio cover half finished, the after (left) and the before (right). (Click the images to see bigger versions.)
In the picture below, you can see how the patio cover looks in relation to the rest of the house.
The deal with the landscape contractor was that his big was for labor only, and I'd have to fork out for the materials ourselves. No problem, that's how we did the major home remodel and we're used to that. So I met his guys at Southern Lumber, they picked out what we needed and how much of the different pieces, and I paid for it.
Now that it's done (looks good, btw), we had a lot of leftovers. They seriously overestimated the need. That's not a bad thing in general, better to have too much than to run out and have to stop work. And, Southern Lumber accepts returns (I checked before buying it!). Only thing is, I had to transport all the lumber back to the store across town.
It took me three trips over three days to get it back there. In my Tacoma pickup, I could only fit so many 16 foot boards. But as of this morning, all of it's now back safely at the store, and I got my money back. Doing some quick calculations, I estimate that in terms of cost, about 23% of the material was returned.
I'm getting a bit good at packing the truck with lumber and safely transporting across bumpy city streets!