Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Bug Catcher

As big as she is, she still sometimes half disappears in my front lawn... lol

Yoga Under the Steps

This was my space for yoga yesterday afternoon:

Check out the date stamp in the corner of the footing!  Happy.

I did the "plank" pose many times --

and I did this locust pose quite a few times --

My personal variation was that, when my arms were outstretched like that I had a drill in my hands.

Are you on to me yet?  The yoga was a side benefit to affixing the final pieces of lumber for the steps to the steel frame.  I am the original multi-tasker.  I could also say I was doing hot yoga, because the temp was 100 yesterday.  At least I was mostly in the shade.

My tools?  Two rugs that my parents made.  My nifty new miniature rechargeable drill.  My indoor hand mirror.  My cap light that affixes to the brim of a ball cap.  A Sharpie marker, and a box of screws.  Off we go.

Immediately I regretted not marking the planks as to which one when where.  What was I (not) thinking??  Stupid.  Two of the boards had a little square mark from where the clamps had been, so I had a 50/50 chance of getting those two in the right place.  I recalled that one plank had a split in the end, and I thought I recalled where that one had been... so that left me 3 to jockey between 2 steps and rotate end to end until I figured out what position made the 8 holes line up.  It seemed like about 30 times that I alternated from squatting in front of the stairs where normal people access steps, and laying on my belly under the stairs, down there where the spiders live.  Oh, and let's not forget snakes (see previous post...)  I had just been under there a few days prior, and surely I had unintentionally cleared out all the spider webs.  And yet... lots of dangly sticky things.

The project took me a good two hours -- I put in 40 screws.  I didn't count how many times I scooted under the steps on my belly, got something in place, and then scooted out and went around to the front of the stairs for the front part. (Did I mention yet that it was 100 degrees outside?  Oh, yes I did.  Nevermind.)  The underside where the screws went had a vertical separation underneath so I could only reach one half at a time. 

Here's a view looking up at the underside of a step:

That gray line down the middle?  That is a "fin" that hangs down about 4 inches and runs from end to end of each step.  You can see a strip of wood on the far right, where the wood overhangs the front of the step.   You can understand why I needed a hand mirror and a flashright, right?  There was no way to see where I was working -- and what's more fun than totally reversing your view of your workspace??  As a side note, I nearly failed geometry in junior high.  Reversing everything?  Rock on!

Here's another view of the workspace:

See how the rug drops off steeply to the right?  That, and about a foot deeper is where I had to get with the drill.  Lovely!

Anyway, I got it done:

And just because we can, let's look down from the landing:

Obviously still more wood preservative to apply... note the drastic color change.  I can't believe the sun has faded the wood so much so fast!  Welcome to Texas...

Back Steps Progress

You may recall from previous posts how the last couple of steps ended up below grade.  I ended up burying the bottom step, and then the next two steps up were so low to the ground that Vic wasn't able to get his drill under them to affix the planks from below with screws.  I told him I would deal with that and to do what he could.  Until now, the bottom 2 steps have been held in place with those little blue clamps on the ends of the steps:

I'll admit to massive procrastination.  I am the Queen of Procrastination, after all, and one must work to maintain one's title.  And, as I've said before, I am worthless without a deadline.  The ipe planks on the landing and steps really need to be sealed as well, and I really am wanting to get plants planted under the steps, but I can't do that until the dirtwork is done.  None of those things are a deadlines, but together I guess they were enough pressure to make me get motivated.  Sunday I decided to tackle clearing out the soil from underneath.

I started from the front side, pulling the dirt forward and out from under the bottom step.  It turned out that was mostly mulch that the rain had washed down the slope and under the step.  I relocated that to the asparagus bed.  When I had done as much as I could from that side, I put a rug under the steps and crawled under on my belly.  I worked the soil with a pick axe and a tool that is a cross between a pitchfork and a hoe -- I'm sure it has a name but I don't know what it is.  It didn't take as long as I thought it would.  At one point however a snake slithered out at me and as I shrieked and jumped back I clunked my head on the underside of the steel steps.  Ouch.  Fortunately he was slithering away from me, and not towards me...  regardless, I try hard not to be within 3 feet of any directional slithering in an enclosed space...nobody had to teach me that...

The steel that holds the planks has pre-drilled holes in it.  The lumber is affixed by setting a screw from below the steel up into the lumber.  That way the screws don't show.  Because of the cramped space, I decided I'd want to pre-drill the holes in the lumber.  I laid the lumber in place, took at Sharpie and from below the steps marked where the screw holes are.  I had to be somewhat of a contortionist but I got it done.  I thought about labeling them about which plank was where, but did I?  No.  Live to regret...

I should have taken some photos at this point, but did I?  No.  Some kind of blogger I am!

There still isn't enough space for a traditional drill to fit -- I'd need about a foot of clearance for that, and I have about 6 inches.  I looked into renting a flexible bit attachment for a drill, and ended up buying a miniature rechargeable screwdriver -- about the size of a hot glue gun.  If I pre-drill the holes, that should have enough oompf to get the job done.

BLACK & DECKER LI3100 A CompactFit Lithium Screwdriver
Next up?  Affixing the planks.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ipe and Penofin

I'm finally in the process of treating the Ipe lumber on my backsteps.  I did quite a bit of research and decided to use Penofin for Exotic Hardwoods.  It isn't a stain, and it isn't a sealant... it's just a preservative so that the wood doesn't gray.  Only one store in all of Dallas carried it -- and it was up north.  Several weeks ago I did a road trip to buy a gallon.

The instructions were somewhat daunting:  Scrub down the wood and let it dry for 48 hours.  (And in the meantime keep muddy dog paws off of it.)  Then, when the wood is cool to the touch and the outdoor ambient temperature is below 80 degrees, apply it with a China bristle brush.  20-30 minutes after application, wipe off the excess or it will be tacky. 

I decided not to do all of the surfaces at once, and to begin with just the bottom 3 steps.  I scrubbed them down Sunday morning.  Sunday afternoon I went to Home Depot to buy a China bristle bruch.  No brushes were labeled as such... turns out that means a natural bristled brush.  Apparently -- and I'm not making this up -- the Chinese were the first ones to use animal hair (natural bristles) in brushes, and so they are called China bristle.  ?? I'm calling for some consistency in labeling...  At any rate, I procured said China bristle brush and a can of turpentine for clean up.

This morning?  Lumber is clean and dry:  Check.  Temperature is below 80.  Check.  Lumber is cool to the touch.  Check.  I brushed on the Penofin, took the d.o.g. for a walk, and came back and wiped off the excess.


Whoa!  Talk about a total makeover!  I like it though.  And look how the Penofin really brings out the grain of the wood:

Tonight I'll scrub down the landing above the steps, and I'll apply the Penofin Friday morning before work.  I think I'll have to do the big landing in two sections...

Around the Back Garden

I harvested a few beets Monday morning:

They aren't huge, but hopefully they'll have great flavor.  I still have about a dozen in the ground, but I think it's probably too hot for them to really develop.  I'll leave them there and see.

And then I got a handful of sugar snap peas:

There are quite a few blossoms still on the vine so I hope despite the heat it's just the beginning of the peas.  It's supposed to be 100+ here for the next 3 days.  So early to be this hot...

In sad garden news...

All 11 of my giant swallowtail butterfly caterpillars were gone when I got home from work last night.  I presume a bird ate them.  I had been checking on them every morning and every evening... so fun to watch them grow so fast...  Sigh.  I guess the plant was sort of exposed.  I need to plant some additional growth around them for camoflauge.  Sorry my little friends... If I see more eggs laid I am so putting netting over the rue!

And then this!  I don't think any words are necessary except one:  Squirrels.

On a less tragic note, nine of my ten asparagus plants are up... my cucumbers are getting bigger... the sunflowers are getting so tall... many types of flowers in my butterfly bed are blooming (most of which I cannot identify.)  No blossoms yet on the watermelon or the birdhouse gourds... 
My yellow squash and my zucchini squash are monstrously huge and just covered in blossoms.  But no squash!  I've had blossoms for WEEKS.  Sunday I went to Redenta's and asked Bucky what he thought the problem might be.  His first thought?  Pollination.  "Do you have any bees?" he asked me.  Yes, I have bees -- they love all my butterfly garden plants front and back.  And I have cucumbers, and presumably they also required pollination.  So then he tells me I can pollinate the squash myself, by taking a male squash blossom and touching it to the female squash blossom.  "Basically," he said, and I quote, "you have to have sex with your squash."   "But what will my neighbors say?!"  He explained how to tell the difference between the types of blossom, and home I went.  Examined the blossoms... but for the life of me I couldn't tell which was which.  I decided I'd have to look that up.  And then last night I was out, and what did I see?  Bees!  In the sqsuash blossoms!!  So now I'll wait and see... I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Feed the German!!

Congratulations to our Dallas Mavericks!!!  Whew -- what a night!

Dirk Nowitzki

Happy 2nd Anniversary to Me!

Today is my 2 year anniversary of moving into my little house! It seems like I just got here, and at the same time it seems like a lifetime ago. I think that is a good sign... don't you?

I have really happy memories -- and/but it was such an emotionally charged time. I remember I closed on my house the Friday before we picked our jury for trial -- note to self:  Do not ever buy a house and get ready for trial at the same time...

And so although the house was mine, I had to wait a few weeks before I could even set foot in it; I simply didn't have an hour to spare to go do a quick walk through and hug the walls. While I was in trial, Red checked on things for me and managed the new roof installation for me so that I could get home owner's insurance. Thanks Red!

And then -- the jury came back in our favor -- and in the post-trial haze the movers came and loaded the truck -- Vic did some remodeling, Red and I did a few trips of random items with his truck, and I went to pick up Cole at the airport.

We three unpacked boxes, sipped champagne and laughed. A LOT. I still laugh when I think about that weekend.  Unpacking was especially entertaining because I hadn't packed things myself; I had hired a guy from the Wholefoods coffee bar to pack for me.  I had no time but had extra cash.  He had extra time and needed cash.  And then he labeled them with terms like this -- I never knew what would be in any given box:

I mean, who wouldn't laugh at that?

Taking a break to survey my new kingdom
And so, tonight I'll take a moment to sit down, and look around me, and raise a glass of bubbly to commemorate the day.  Cheers!