Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Building a Door Step with log rounds - 12/29/13


My friends were up at my house cutting the trees that have fallen down over the last year for firewood, and I asked them to cut me some "rounds" out of the big tree trunk that got hit by lightning. They did and when I got up there was a nice pile of 4-6 inch tree rounds. (A round is a cutting that goes all the way through the trunk in a  complete circle.)
Tree Rounds
At first, my plan was to use these as "stepping stones" from the back deck to the driveway but then I was up there and saw my back sliding door with it's sad little board for a step.

This board as been the back "step" since I bought the place... sad.
And I noticed that the rounds were actually the perfect height to reach the door and that gave me the idea to see if I could make something work. I started arranging and re-arranging the rounds trying to get the height level and to see if I could get them to lock together.

First pass
 It took a lot of tries to find a combination I liked.. and these are not light to move around!

Second Pass
After I got the big pieces where I liked them, there were still space in between so I started cutting up smaller logs and fitting those in between. It was like playing Jenga in reverse... and man it took about 3 hours of just placing them down, pulling them up, cutting more, and placing down in another spot.
Smaller pieces being filled in between
And more..

I got it where I liked the design and then worked on leveling out the pieces to the best of my ability. That took awhile as well... I wanted it sturdy enough to walk on without wobbling. So then I had to figure out how to make it more stable. Off to Lowes! I bought some flexible garden board, stakes, and sand and pebbles.

Surrounded it with flexible garden border
 After the border was secured, I used 2 bags of sand to fill in the holes and secure the small logs into place.
Pour the sand out and brush it around.. you don't want it all the way to the top.
 After the sand is in place I had 2 bags of small pebbles and did the same thing with them. Poured them out and worked them into the cracks. You need to make sure you have a bit of a slope going away from the house for drainage.
Pour and sweep!

Pebbles are in... 
 After about 1 1/2 bags of pebbles I sprayed it with water to help it settle and filled in the voids with the rest of the pebbles.
Front view

I am not happy with the border... I don't like the way it looks. I think I will need to get some redwood or landscape timbers and use them instead. But until then, this works. I love the look of it and the fact that it is made from the beautiful oak tree that lived on my property. And in a few years, I can easily change it since it is not cement. Next time I will spray them with a waterproof sealant to help keep the color nice and stop them from rotting. They are in a protected area (somewhat) so that should help.

See what happens when I get creative? Takes up the whole weekend and I love it! Casey on the other hand, was not impressed.
When's dinner?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cold Weekend!

This winter has been really cold and really dry, and it is causing a lot of people to worry that we will be in a serious drought this year. I hope the Farmer's Almanac is right because it says we will have heavy rain in January and Feb. But the weekend of Dec 7th was exceptionally cold and it actually rained a lot! I wasn't there but my friend who lives in the area sent me pictures and there was snow everywhere. I was sure that everything would be gone when I got there and I was right for the most part. My house is south-facing so it is too warm to keep snow for any length of time, but what a surprise to see snow everywhere in the shady spots and on my neighbor's north-facing area! It was really cool! 
Of course, the cold killed a lot of my plants. The citrus trees did fine except for the little lime tree...

I am afraid this little guy is a goner - which is sad because it was on it's second year and should have been ready to take off and grow!

Here is the basil from this summer - and well, it didn't much like the cold either.

Cut Basil - I was able to get so much Basil from these plants!

In the garden - after being cut you can still see there is a lot of basil
Dead Basil - it doesn't like the cold!
One of my trial winter vegetables is broccoli and it actually is fine after that freeze.. now if I can get it to grow into something bigger!
Lastly, since it was so cold out there I finally was able to take the sunflower heads that I saved and get the seeds out of them. This is not easy! The heads are really sharp and stick you with fine little needles. 
Just starting out breaking up the heads

Sorting out the seeds - I look for seeds that are plump and full. Some are empty shells.

After all of that - this is the bag that I decided had the best seeds.
Since no one else wanted any seeds, I only kept the best ones and put the rest out for the birds. They really could use the help right now and how many 14 foot sunflowers does one yard need anyway?


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Greenhouse Project - Post 1

Building a greenhouse - Part 1

My hoop house didn't stand up to the strong wind we have at my house, so the clips would come off and the sheeting was torn up. When the house windows were being replaced I asked them to leave them and started planning to build a greenhouse with my dad. (Why? How is it I think these things are a good idea? And what is funnier is that when I called Dad and said what do you think? He was like - let's do it!) 
It is a big project, not one for a beginner. If you are not used to this kind of building and want a greenhouse, use the hoop house model or buy a kit. 

Here is the pictures over the 2 1/2 days - It all started with the lumber delivery on Monday afternoon. My driveway is pretty steep so it is always exciting to get a delivery.. and see if the driver can actually make it up!
Truck from Lowes

Pallet of lumber
The greenhouse dimensions are 10 ft wide by 12 feet long and the first wall is the hardest to put together. We did have a design plan but we used the windows and built around them to get the openings the right size.
Laying out the design for the first wall

And it is up!

Casey was supervising the work site. Notice the hard hat? That lasted for about 30 mins.. and the tool belt has it's own story.
The rest of the walls followed the same pattern. Layout the windows, adjust the wood and frame them in. 
Wall #2 - these are actually the glass from sliding doors so really large pieces and HEAVY!

Frame is up and braced for wall #2 - Dad is feeling proud!

Back wall framed on the ground - with Sophie watching us this time.
3 walls up and braced - we are making progress!
After getting all the walls framed and braced the hard part is attaching them together and getting the walls squared up. Then we started installing the windows and the screening with the help of my nephew and niece. They are 13 and 10 and were a really big help, my niece was a demon with the auto-hammer! Maybe the D-I-Y bug has made it to the next generation?
Laine and I looking at the window we just put up.

Grandpa showing Laine where to hammer to keep the window in place.

All working together!
Jacob did all the screening around the top - ventilation is key in a greenhouse. 

Dad standing in the "doorway" of the house.

Jacob stapling more screens - he did a great job and had to work on a ladder!

Laine and her auto-hammer!

Dad and his regular hammer.
Here is how we left it at about noon on Thanksgiving day- all the walls are framed and the windows and screens are in. We still need to get a roof, siding and a door in.. this took about 15 - 16 hours of work to get here. It is really exciting to see it this far along though and hopefully I can get it finished before January or February when I want to start using it.
I love it!
Thanks to my dad who worked so hard on this with me, and to my wonderful niece and nephew who helped us make the final push to get to this point. 
This isn't a normal thing to do on a holiday break, except for our family!


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Week - 2013


I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving day! I did for sure. My family was up at my house and we were eating good that is for sure. I am really blessed to have this family of mine... 

My dad and I worked on my greenhouse for a couple of days and then we got help from my niece and nephew as well. They worked hard and were a big help. I am gong to do a separate post on that greenhouse. 

Prior to that - I was painting, still and finished the TV Room. Here are some pictures of that-
Before - the walls were white with paint samples on them

Before - paint samples on the wall

One wall done - one still white

It took about 4 hours and I was able to watch football at the same time so it worked out good!


Saturday, November 23, 2013

How to replace a doorbell chime - easy to medium project!

Easy DIY project  - replace the bell housing and your doorbell

Tools Required;
Power Drill

Optional tools but really helpful;
Wire tool

How many of you have one of those ugly door chimes that were installed when the house was built and have been painted and re-painted? My house had one of these ugly, plastic boxes, and then it started to buzz... buzz not ring... so I pulled it apart and undid the wiring. Which meant that I didn't have a functioning doorbell at all, which isn't a huge problem at my house but still it needed to be fixed. Here is how to do it and yes, you can do this yourself.

Step 1 - Remove the old doorbell casing and chime.
The plastic houses that cover the chimes just usually snap on and off. Look for a latch or other catch point and wiggle it carefully to get it off.
This is my ugly plastic box
Under the housing you will see something that looks like a bomb but is just the bell mechanism. It will most likely have a 2 or 4 screws holding it to the wall so you will need to find those and unscrew them. Also, just use a screwdriver to loosen the screws only the wires and take them off. 
Loosen screws and remove wires as well as from the wall - before removing the wires, note which color goes to which screw.
This is what it will look like when removed - a hole with wires sticking out. 

Step 2 - Mark new hole placement and drill for screw anchors
The new housing will need to be attached to the wall so position it on the wall and make sure it is level. (yes use a level for this..) Then mark with a pencil and drill holes for the plastic anchors.

This is my new doorbell kit with housing and chime mechanism

Position over the wires and mark the holes with a pencil. There is an UP mark on the housing so make sure you look for that.

Most walls will need to have hollow wall anchors so drll those first. My kit actually told me the drill bit size otherwise get one that is a slightly larger than the anchor.

Step 3 - Hammer in the hollow wall anchors
Most people will have the doorbell in a hollow spot on the wall, in other words not near a wood stud. You will need to use a "hollow wall" anchor in order to use the screws. They are included in the kit and are a plastic sleeve that goes into the hole you drilled, and will hold the screw in place. Be gentle with these when you are putting them into the wall as they are very weak plastic by design and I have crushed many of them in my past.
Gently - Hammer or push in the wall anchors. Gently!
 Step 4 - Attach the housing and re-attach the wires

Now that you have all the anchors in you can attach the housing. Take the housing and pull the wires through the hole again and move them out of the way. Starting with the screw on the bottom, hand start it so you know it is going in straight, then you can use a screwdriver. 
Screw the housing to the wall
This is the wire connections - "front", "trans" and "rear"
Attach the wires back to the box - in my case the black wire is the power wire so it goes to the "Trans" screw in the middle. I only have a front door so that was the green wire. 
Wires attached to the housing
Test the bell now
 After all the wires are connected and the housing secure, test the bell before you put the cover on it ! If it works, great, you can move on. If not, try moving the wires around to see if you have them on the wrong screws.

Done - except for patching and painting where the old one was ... painting never seems to end...
Now that you have a new inside  chime what out your doorbell itself? My doorbell was this little round button and that wasn't going to work. Replace it!

Replacing your doorbell

Your doorbell is one of the things you see without noticing, but what does it look like? Mine was pretty plain, just a little push-button style that didn't work. Replacing this doesn't require that you replace the chime inside, so you can do this as often as you want.

Step 1 - Remove the old doorbell
My doorbell was actually attached to the siding via silicone, so I carefully used my screwdriver to cut the seal and pull it out so that I could work on it.
It just popped out when the silicone was cut.
 Step 2 - remove the wires by loosening the screws where they are attached
Bell removed
 Now my wires were a mess with electrical tape and silicone so I had to carefully remove the gunk and get the wires clear to attach to the new doorbell. These wires break easily so you need to be gentle. Once the wires are clean, attach them to the screws on the new bell.
Wires attached to the new bell - test it at this point, before screwing in.

My new bell is much larger than the little button so I had to drill holes for the screws first and then attach using screws. You shouldn't need wall anchors because you are either attaching to wood or some other solid structure. If you have siding that is brick, stone, stucco or other material that you can't or don't want to drill into, use silicone around the outside of the bell to attach it.