Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Dig

I found myself with a couple of free hours this afternoon and in a fit of motivation decided to go under my house and see if I could determine what the issue is with my front hose spigot.  It has had low water pressure since this summer and two weeks ago when I was under the house for a kitchen investigation I saw that the dirt around the spigot pipe was damp.

Growing up I often thought it would be really cool to be an archaeologist, so I tried to reframe this as an adventure.  I zipped up in my zoot suit, donned my work boots, got a big light, a shovel, a hand trowel, put my cell phone in a Ziploc bag and down I went.  This is what it looked like before I started digging; from the slope of the dirt it looks like I am not the first one to dig out around this pipe.  So much for any cool archaeological finds...

The top of that pipe sticks out on the surface side and is the spigot.  You can see how the dirt at the base is a darker color due to dampness.  The good news is, damp dirt is really easy to dig into to move.

Most of the horizontal pipe leading to the vertical was already above ground.  I had maybe 3 feet that I needed to excavate and the most that it was underground was about 6 inches.  I alternated between my hand trowel for the detail work right along the pipe, and the shovel for sloping the steeper sides.

My first impediment were some tiny -- about the diameter of a pencil or less -- tree roots.  Ah ha!  I thought... that's what's going on.  As I uncovered more the pipe I also thought maybe the whole pipe was just corroded and sort of oozing/leaking.  As I dug, the dampness extended further up the pipe away from the foundation than I had realized.

The soil was cool and it smelled damp and earthy - just like our fruit cellar growing up where we used to go hide out during bad weather -- with the whole family there with you it was sort of a party.   (Or, the sort of scary place where you had to go to get onions and potatoes for mom at dinner time when you couldn't bribe an older sister to go in your place.  I always grabbed whatever potatoes were closest to the door -- never caring if bigger and better ones were at the top of pile.)  And again, nothing creepy crawly made an appearance - for which I am always very grateful.

And then as I followed the pipe towards the foundation and looked where I was headed, I realized that um, these two pipes are not going to meet:

So the next logical thought is that there is a horizontal pipe there at the base of the foundation, right?  Right.  Except not.  As I dug more, no horizontal connector pipe was appearing.  And then I stuck my fingers back behind the horizontal pipe at its base... it's a sick joke right?  The pipe has a 90 degree angle all right -- and it goes under the foundation, away from me.  The connection is on the outside of the foundation, not inside where I was digging.

The good news - because I try hard to be a positive person - the good news is that I didn't hit a gusher.  (Well not on THIS side anyway...)  And, more good news is that the leak was probably really good for my Japanese Maple and my Yew on the other side during the summer drought.  Talk about deep watering of the tap roots...

But I do think that what I presume is a crack in the pipe was caused by a tree root.  A slow, gradual crack is going on is my guess.  Here's a close up, and I can see a lighter color horizontal tree root there between the pipes.

I guess my next task is to dig on the other side.  And that's going to be a whole lot more digging than this was - but hey, at least I'll be topside when I do it!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Follow Up Post - My Cold Kitchen

A few posts ago I blogged about Red and I getting under my house and adding some sheets of insulation in an attempt to remedy my kitchen always being cold. 

Last night was the first night since then that it has been chilly; this morning my kitchen was cold. 

I'm sure the insulation helped some, but there must be more that needs to be done.  I already know one problem area -- it's behind the dishwasher.  I've insulated the exterior wall under the sink, and I tried to insulate the area behind the dishwasher, but I couldn't reach back behind it well enough to really get the insulation taped into place like it needs to be.  When I stood in front of the dishwasher this morning in bare feet my feet were instantly cold.

When I saw Red this morning I related the kitchen "fail."  We talked about the dishwasher space, and what that exterior wall looked like when we tore the upper cabinets out, and how thin the wall was. (I could see exterior brick in one place!)  Well you KNOW where that conversation led to -- fantasy talk of ripping out the lower cabinets.  Really.  Just give me a reason.  I told him I don't have very many things stored under there... and that I seriously could use some 1x12s on saw horses and a mud room/utility sink until I remodel my kitchen and I would be happy.  The frightening part?  He wasn't even surprised.  Uh-oh.

Pennies in the Garden

I finally finished my alternative gazing ball this weekend -- a bowling ball covered in pennies.  Here it is!

I set it just inside my pedestrian gate -- you can see it from both sides of the fence.  Sort of fun.

I saw on Pinterest this weekend another idea for re-purposing bowling balls -- painting them to look like ladybugs:

Photo courtesy of Birds & Blooms
I have another second hand bowling ball, but for now it will just be waiting in the garden shed...

Getting Down & Dirty

Yesterday here in Dallas there was a bitter wind that I declared too cold for outside work, and so I tackled an indoor task that has been hanging over my head for quite a long time:  doing a major overhaul cleaning on my stovetop and oven.

Here is the little darling:

It looks benign enough, doesn't it?  Innocently waiting?  It's a Jenn-Air, which is a decent brand.  It's gas, and like most things in my house,* it's less than modern.  It's old enough that it now only has one rack, and I can't find a model number anywhere on it to purchase a second rack.  I've called the Jenn-Air customer number and had them walk me through all sorts of places to look for it, but alas.  But, it's not often that I need two oven racks anyway, so I suppose it's not a huge deal.

One thing I will say for Jenn-Air is that they have the dismantling thing down!  My gosh how I discovered what parts come off for cleaning!  Although I must say, I may be the first person to have figured that out during the lifetime of this stove -- if you know what I mean.

I've mentioned my love of Pinterest in the past, and (too) many weeks ago I had pinned a step-by-step instruction for deep cleaning your stove with baking soda, toothpaste and vinegar.  Here is the link for the instructions:  http://www.askannamoseley.com/2012/01/day-10-cleaning-oven.html

It took me nearly 4 hours and I'm not totally done but I ran out of time.   And the level of goo I uncovered -- not for the faint of heart.  And the layers of crusty things that had to be... reconsituted... to remove.  Things.... that were not vegan.  I'm just saying -- I could tell.  Things that had I known were lurking so nearby, I may not ever have used my stove.  While I highly advise you to take these steps if you are a homeowner, I cannot in good faith advise anyone living in a rental property to tackle this.  Number one, deep cleaning anything in a place that has been a rental property for any period of time is up there with the. most. disgusting. task. you will ever do.  It's akin to rental cars -- you know how gross those are.  Or hotel rooms...really, you WANT the lights dim.  And two, you probably aren't going to be living there long enough that you care about the uber cleanliness of your stove.  So, renters, my advice would be to live happily in denial or you may go running, screaming, into the woods.

In addition to the cleaning steps set out on Ask Anna's blog, I would add that it's really helpful to lay an old towel on the floor in front of your stove.  I didn't at first, and things were getting pretty messy.  I was armed with baking soda, running water (tried a bowl of water - woefully inadequate) a variety of scrubbies, an assortment of different shaped scrapers, an old toothbrush, some sponges, a micro-fiber rag, and a few paper towels, and about 2 cups of vinegar.  I use baking soda for a lot of things around the house, so I have the 16 pound bag from Sam's Club -- and I used a few cups of it.  The little gold box would not have made it.

I did not have the recommended Arm & Hammer toothpaste on hand because when I looked at it in the store and read the label it said that the active ingredients were baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, and I have both of those things on hand at home.  At one point I did try the baking soda/hydrogen peroxide mixture but it didn't seem to do anything spectacular.  Maybe I was so deep into trouble that I just couldn't identify progress...

I also sealed my oven rack into  a construction grade garbage bag with a cup of ammonia.   (Do not use your regular kitchen liner trash bag.  It will leak.)  Tonight I will take that out and rinse it, and it will look like new.  I know, the ammonia is bad.  But it had to be done.  but take heart, it will do a bit of double duty in my city issued rolling trash can.

Anyway, I didn't pull my stove away from the wall to clean back there, but I have to tell you -- I think that is a project all by itself for another day.  Frankly I'm a little scared and I need to work up the courage.  Murphy's Law dictates that the back of the stove is where the model number is...

I also need to take one more run at a patch of black on the bottom of the oven -- a patch that I greatly reduced in size and depth but didn't get it all -- but otherwise, my stove is shiny and pristine.  You could eat off of that thing!  Oh -- wait...    I was repeatedly amazed what a paste of baking soda and water and a scrubby can cut through.  Without fumes! 

And I've had one of those As Seen On TV Betty Crocker oven liners for literally months, waiting to have a clean oven to lay it down on.  So that's in there.  Yay.

And now, as a friend of mine and I like to say -- "and now, when it's dirty, I'll know that it's MY dirt."  And that makes all the difference in the world.

* my old, little house that I love dearly