Weekend gardening

by Chuck September 4, 2012

Been spending my weekends working on the vegetable gardens. The garden inside our Tango-proof fence has always been a little haphazard – it wasn’t so much planned as it just sorta grew up over the years. One of the problems with planter boxes in the garden was that they didn’t line up with each other; that left little nooks and crannies where I couldn’t get the lawn mower in to cut the grass.

Pretty soon the whole garden got out of control:

I really needed to mow in there once or twice, and get the line trimmer in to take care of the corners, but with one thing and another I pretty much left the garden alone this summer. So in the tradition of men in my family I got out the power tools and started over:

I used the tractor to lift out the old garden boxes, then moved the planting soil over to the compost bin. After that, I stripped most of the grass out using the tractor bucket. I needed to clean up the edges by hand, so that took me another day of shovel work. Finally, I used my pile of dirt left over from other projects to fill in the hole that I made digging the grass out. Took two weekends, but all of the preparation work was complete.

Over the long Labor Day weekend I spent two days putting things back together. First I laid out, built and placed new cedar forms for raised beds (I re-used the one old bed that still worked). Then I dug trenches and laid 5 watering circuits that I took back to the side of the garden shed where I will put the manifold to control them. Each raised bed has two feed lines each on a different circuit so that I can water however I want – one feed line will be for drippers and the other will be for mini sprinklers or bubblers.

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MC Panel–Building a new front panel for the Membership Card

by Chuck November 23, 2011

“Bee Dee” on the Yahoo COSMAC ELF group suggested that we document the progress of our various ELF2K and Membership Card projects with photos and videos to share on the Web. I’m not so much with video, but I can take a picture or two and write up what I’m doing.

I’ve been working on improving the serial port adapter that I build using a Picaxe 20X2. I showed the new version to the group on the mailing list, and suddenly I had a new idea to work on. I was inspired by a posting on the mailing list by Lee Hart – replacing the stock front panel of the Membership Card with a new keypad and LED digit display controlled by a Picaxe microprocessor. It sounded like a good idea to me, that is if I could get everything to fit on the small footprint offered by the Membership Card.

I’m going to be writing up my progress as I go along, providing a screen shot or photograph or two, and hopefully sharing what I learn. Right  now, I’m thinking that I’m going to have to jump through these hoops:

  • Figure out if I can get a Picaxe 40X2, a 16-key keypad, and two LED displays on a board the size of the Membership Card.
  • Come up with a tentative assignment for the input/output ports on the Picaxe.
  • Build a version of the circuit on a breadboard to make sure that it works.
  • Write software to make the whole package work.
  • Layout a PC board and get it manufactured.
  • Build a prototype and see if I got it right.

Hopefully I’ll keep engaged on this project until I get it done. Making a commitment to writing it up should help with that.




by Chuck March 28, 2010

Repowered my sailboat today.

That certainly sounds like a complex undertaking. Most of the time that means lifting a big diesel engine out of the bilges of a sailboat with a crane, and then dropping a new one in with much sweating and swearing.

I went and bought a new outboard and hung it on the transom instead of getting the old one out of the garden shed.

We decided to take advantage of a cash windfall to finally buy our own outboard. I’ve been using my father-in-law’s for years -- I’ve always felt a little guilty about that. Now I can take his back to him (if I was a really good son-in-law I’d give him the new one, but he’s had this motor for years, knows how to work on it, and Dana isn’t sure he’d like to have the new one).

The old motor is an 8HP two-stroke Evinrude. The new one is a 6HP four-stroke Tohatsu. We typically used 3 or 4 gallons of gas a year in the Evinrude, from what I hear we’ll use even less with the Tohatsu. It runs a little rougher (it’s a single cylinder) but it’'ll have move torque and run quieter.

It also come with an alternator. It puts out 6 amps, not much, I’ll admit but enough for running lights and to keep a battery topped up. Maybe now I’ll actually put an electrical system on board. Or at least a battery…

I told Dana that I was looking forward to going out and motor boating. She said “have fun with that.” So yeah, the main reason I have a motor on the boat is to get from the launch to the place where we put up our sails. But there have been times when I just wanted to get out on the water and putter around. This might be my ticket.



Not gonna quit my day job

by Chuck March 26, 2010

Last weekend the family was out of town so I took advantage of the missing family to do some work on Odyssey. I pulled her into the barn and started cleaning out the stuff inside. Some things, like the towels, needed to be taken out and washed. Other things, like the cushions, just needed to be dried off and they were good to go.

I pulled the sails out of the sail bags and hung them up in the garage over night to make sure that they were dry, and I used the shop vac to pull 4 or 5 gallons of water out of the bilges. All in all, however, it was remarkably clean in there.

That weekend I pulled all the miscellaneous lines off the boat. I pulled the boom vang, the main boom downhaul, the main outhaul and the earring off and took them to West Marine to replace the lines.

I’m not sure what it is about the people at West Marine, but there are two kinds of people that work there. Good-natured people who don’t know anything about boats and unpleasant arrogant people who don’t know anything about boats but treat you like the problem is you, not them.

Of course, when I went in on Saturday there was one of each.

At one point I was doing the “I’m smiling because I don’t want to tell you exactly what I think about what you’ve just said to me.” I think they might have got the picture, ‘cause they backed way off.

Anyway, the good-natured guy helped me size and purchase new lines. I picked up a tide table and actually made it out of the store for only $21.

Yes, it was too good to be true.

I stopped on the way home and picked up a spool of waxed whipping twine at the other marine shop on the Everett water front (can’t think of the name. Typical.) because I didn’t want to go back to West Marine and try to explain to them what I wanted. Saturday night while I watched TV I whipped the end of all the lines.

The lines looked good, but when I went out to put them on the boat it turned out they were all a sixteenth too big. So I put Duchess in the car and headed back on Sunday morning.

The same two guys were working. They were standing in the exact same place they had been when I got there on Saturday. Worst nightmare ever. And it cost me another $17.

This time I bought extra line for the boom vang. I wanted to try to splice an eye around the beckett on the vang’s fiddle block. On Wednesday I finally gave it a try. It took me 3 hours and two tries to put in one rather ugly splice, only saved by the long whip I put around the splice. I can have one done for me for $6. Couldn’t make a living doing that…

Anyway, I took the lines out to the boat – put the vang back on the boom and tied the outhaul and downhaul where they belong. Looks rather spiffy with the new lines.

So far so good. 



Laminating the family room floor

by Chuck February 12, 2010

On Tuesday Dana and I went to Home Depot while the kids were at cat 4H and bought 18 boxes of Pergo laminate flooring, along with the floor padding and a few tools that we need to get the job done. Last night we started unloading the family room so that we can put new laminate flooring in instead of the existing carpet, which after only two and a half years is starting to show the wear and tear of cheap carpet in a high-traffic area of the house. We finished unloading the family room tonight after watching Burn Notice, hey, after all we need to have our priorities straight.

Anyway, as soon as the show was over I started taking apart the A/V equipment in the entertainment center. Wow, was it dusty. There were dust bunnies on the dust bunnies hiding behind the equipment. Sneezing happened.

After moving out the couch and the entertainment center we got to work pulling the molding from around the room. Dana came up with a marking system, and the kids carried the strips out into the garage.

After that Joey and I rolled up the old carpet and hauled it out to the garage. I needed to work fast, Dana was getting awfully close to vacuuming the carpet that we were about to throw away. Joe and I managed to stave that off, however.

Next up was the carpet pad. I was surprised (although I guess I shouldn’t be) to see lines of moisture where the subfloor panels butt together. Dana said there was moisture in the carpet pad too. The new underlayment for the laminate is supposed to provide a moisture barrier, not sure what good it will do but it sounds good.

Anyway, the family room is now almost the same as it was before they put the carpet in. It’s funny – I saw this house’s bones when it was going up but I still find it intimidating to see the subfloor hanging out there.

We jumped pretty quickly past the “OK, we’re committed” part of this project. Now that the carpet is out we pretty much have to go ahead with the project. Only we’re still not 100% certain, or even 90% certain, that we can pull it off. This could still be a train wreck.

Cross your fingers.



Arbor day, redux

by Chuck May 3, 2009

We accidentally planted some more trees today.

Not accidentally, per se. It wasn't an accident to plant them, but buying them and putting them in was a spur of the moment sort of thing.

Early on Sunday morning I started digging out the trenches where we are putting the pier blocks for the deck. Dana came out, saw me digging, and said "We need to rent a tool." We rented a little Kubota excavator for the day, 8 hours of engine time in a 24 hour period. Since we only had an hour or so of digging for the patio, we looked around and said, "What else can we use a digger for?"

We came up with three things. Digging in a water line from the hose bib in the middle of the front to the chip shed, digging in an electrical line to the front gate, and digging the holes for the trees. Two of the projects meant leaving ditches across part of the place for a while; putting in the trees seemed like a one-time use of the digger. So that's what we did.

I waited for the excavator to be delivered. Dana headed down to Woods Creek Nursery to buy flowering plum trees. You remember a couple of weeks ago when we planted a flowering plum we bought the smaller trees? This time they didn't have smaller trees, we ended up with three enormous (20-feet tall) flowering plums to plant along the driveway.

Digging the holes with an excavator was easy. I loaded the dirt into the back of the truck and Joey and I unloaded it into the stock pile that I'm building over next to the compost bins. Last time when I planted a tree I used the tractor to mix dirt and compost, and then to haul the mixture to the planting hole. This time I moved one load, and then the front left tire on the tractor blew out. We ended up moving compost the old fashioned way -- shoveling it into the truck and then shoveling it back out.

Putting the trees in the holes was harder than we expected, but in the end we had the three trees planted along the driveway. It looks kinda elegant, the tree-lined driveway up to our house. It's a look that I really like, it's gonna be nice each spring when the trees flower.




by Chuck April 26, 2009

We've been describing laying the flagstones for the patio as "building a jigsaw puzzle, only there's no picture on the front of the box, all the pieces are the same color, and none of them actually fit together." It turned out to be exactly like that.

Dana and I hit the, well, not bricks. Rocks I guess. Rocks early and started laying the flagstones for the patio. With only one short break in the morning when my Mom and brother stopped by and a slightly longer one at lunch time, we laid the whole patio by 4:00 p.m.

It looks surprisingly good.

We've decided now that we have the patio we're pretty much committed to building the entire deck. The patio by itself looks pretty silly.



2-Part Harmony

by Chuck April 25, 2009

Today's installment of "the patio from heck" went in two parts.

First, in the morning I went to Rockman and got another truckload of 5/8-minus gravel. The lady there puts a serious load on your truck.

Then I took Joey to Lake Tye where we had a baseball game. I called the game from behind the plate -- the other team's fans didn't think much of my low strike calls, but there you go.

In the afternoon I started putting gravel in the hole. Took most of the truckload but I finally had the whole patio area filled to 3 inches below the grass. There must be 8 inches of gravel in some places, but no one will ever be able to say I didn't put enough rock under it.

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A fair curve is, well, fair

by Chuck April 20, 2009

Today was a beautiful day. Too beautiful to stay indoors at work. But I did anyway.

But as soon as I got home Dana met me at the door and said all your tools are waiting for you, so I headed out and started cutting sod away from the area where the patio will go.

The sod cutting and digging went quickly since we were only doing a few square feet, then I used the rest of the gravel that I had on hand to backfill the hole. Unfortunately the gravel I had on hand only filled the new area, there wasn't enough left over to bring the whole patio area up the two inches that we need. That will have to wait for our next chance to work on the project.



Backing up

by Chuck April 8, 2009

I started cutting a new back for Odyssey's hatch tonight. The first one was about half an inch too narrow at the top, and since I've only got half an inch or so to work with the darn thing doesn't fit. This time I'm cutting and fitting each piece individually, and it seems to be working out so far.

I cut the two sids, they are just slightly different angles. Not enough to make up all the problem at the top, but enough that I needed to reset the miter gauge on the saw before I cut each end of the bottom piece. I had to go in to make dinner before I cut the top, but I'll do that tonight and see what it looks like after I glue it up.



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