Sunday, May 31, 2009

Spending $7.00 to save $75.00

We were having some more drain problems.

The laundry tub was draining very slowly, so when we were doing laundry it was filling up. Since we don't watch the washer & dryer like a hawk we didn't notice this until we also did a load of dishes at the same time.

The laundry and kitchen sink drain through the same stack, so they conspired to fill and overflow the laundry tub. Luckily we have a floor drain right in that area so there was no damage. The drain was blocked BEFORE the floor drain, other wise we'd have had a bigger problem.

I could have snaked the drain if I had a snake or if I could have gotten the brass access plug off of the stack. So I went with Plan B.

In this case, Plan B was liquid drain cleaner. At $7.00 a bottle it's much cheaper than a plumber. IF it works.

I gave it a couple of tries according to the manufacturer's directions and didn't notice any appreciable changes, it still drained verrrrrrry slowly.

Hoping that the chemicals at least started breaking things up I decided to give it a little force. One of the two tub drains was plugged and a hose was stuck in the other one. A wet towel was used to seal around the hose as well as possible.

After a few seconds of pressure from the hot water heater I could hear things break loose and the water started draining quickly.

I'm not sure if it was the pressure or the chemicals or a combination of the two, but the job is done and I didn't have to call the plumber to snake the drain.

Granted it might not be a bad idea to have somebody come out and scrape the pipes, but at least I don't HAVE to do it now.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Getting the Garden Started

It was a nice day so I decided to get started on the garden. I've had the tarp down over the grass for about 5 days in an effort to kill the grass.

It didn't work out quite as well as I had hoped, probably because I didn't cut the grass real short before putting the tarp down.

The ground was still pretty damp, and since our ground contains a lot of clay it didn't till as well as I had hoped.

Either way, the tiller did a pretty good job cutting through the sod. The tiller was certainly worth the price I paid (free).

Over the weekend, if the weather is good I plan to hit the store and pick up some landscape timbers to frame the garden. Then a few yards of topsoil to fill it in and I should be all set for planting.

Since it's late in the season to start with seeds we'll just put in plants from a local greenhouse.

More to come.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Beautifying the Ranch

No, I'm not putting pictures of me in front of the place, but thanks for the thought.

There is a planting bed at the front of the house. It's got a southern exposure so it gets plenty of sunlight. Last year my wife picked out the plants for it, and her theme was "Flowers that Jeff hates."

This year I beat her to the punch and picked up some plants from Menards. I got a half-dozen different styles/colors, including some grasses.

To prepare the bed I finally got a chance to use the rototiller. It was a tight fit in this narrow bed, but it chewed through the ground without a problem. Well, it should, it's only lightly compacted dirt. I did the same on a planting bed on the side of the house, but haven't picked up the plants for that area yet. I still need to remove the stump from an old burning bush which was planted there and allowed to grow wild.

I also started preparing a spot in the back yard for a garden, which should really give the tiller a workout. Currently the spot is covered with a thick layer of grass. I could possibly till right through it, but if the grass is still alive it'll start growing right away once I plant and water the garden.

The goal is to kill the grass. Yeah, I could remove it with a sod cutter or a shovel, but that's a LOT of work that I don't want to do, so I went with "Plan B".

Plan B is covering the ground with a dark tarp and letting the heat generated do the hard work for me. Between the heat and the lack of sunshine I should be able to accomplish the goal. I could also use a lot of grass killer, but would rather not.

Since the days are longer now I'll probably break out the tiller after work in the next day or two and break the ground up. Then it gets covered up again for a few days before tilling again. Maybe it'll be ready to plant in a few weeks.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

More Regular Maintenance

While you're cleaning out your gutters and changing the batteries in the smoke detectors, don't forget your furnace air filter.

This one was installed last fall. I use Honeywell filters that are pleated and about 4" thick. Pretty nasty looking.

The back side is nice and clean. This is what the new filters look like (except for the wire mesh which is only on the back side). The 4" thickness along with the pleating increase the surface area tremendously compared to a generic 1" filter. Because of the extra surface area I only have to change the filter twice a year.

Ghetto Metal Fabrication

Back to the rototiller I got for free a few weeks ago. I didn't notice it right away, but there was no shield around the tiller blades. This wouldn't keep it from operating, but it would make using it a very dirty operation for me as it would throw dirt all over me.

Time to do a little metal fabrication!

A few years back I did a lot of metal fabrication in the garage of our previous house. This Humvee replica was built on a Chevy Suburban chassis. Everything brown was fabricated from scratch. The cammo parts are military surplus, and the doors are replicas. Compared to this, a dirt shield for an old rototiller should be a piece of cake!

First step was to remove the motor from the tiller. Four bolts and the throttle cable were removed in about 5 minutes.

The lower unit only needed a little de-greasing.

I had enough spare sheet metal laying around to do this, but most of my metal working tools are still packed up. This was a pretty simple job so I went with hand tools. Aviation snips, a 24" x 24" sheet of aluminum, a 3 pound mallet, and cordless drill is all I needed.

The back end of the sheet was cut to fit over the frame and the sides were bent down. The aluminum bends easily, so I didn't have to use a metal brake.

It's probably wider than it needs to be, but I can easily trim it back later after I try it out for the first time. As it sits now it should easily keep me from getting covered in dirt. Total work time, about 90 minutes.

The thin metal would benefit from a couple of beads being rolled into it, but it's not worth the effort right now until I get a chance to try it out.

After mounting the engine it fired up on the 3rd pull. Life is good.

Spring Gutter Cleaning

We've had a lot of rain over the past few days, and it looks like it'll keep up for at least another day or two.

Since we moved in there have been pretty regular "issues" with the downspouts, as they get a pretty good build-up of leaves and twigs which can block the flow and plug the downspout. Plugged downspouts lead to water coming in at the foundation, which has meant water getting into the basement.

I took a little time when the rain stopped to go check the downspouts, and found that two of the four had some build-up. Neither was too bad, but one of them could have easily escalated to full blockage with a little more debris.

Five minutes of work and they're all cleaned out and ready for more rain. I also found that one of the drain lines was ready to come disconnected, which would have let all the water drop straight down to the foundation. Probably from the kids playing around it, would be my guess.

The blockage I get now is nowhere near as bad as it was last year thanks to the tree trimming I've been doing. Trees which were overhanging the house were cut back as much as possible, so now much of the junk ends up in the gutters thanks to the wind. I won't cut the trees back too much more, as they'll really start to look hacked up if I do that.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Taking Advantage of a Nice Day

It's been too long since I did any work in the garage. About all I've done in the past 8 months out there was making it messier.

Took care of that today, and got things about half-way done.

All the big stuff was pulled out and rearranged. I also broke out the leaf-blower and got all the old leaves and dust out.

I still need to go through all the stuff on shelves and clean off the work bench so I can tune up the chainsaws and do some other work which wouldn't be appreciated on the kitchen table.