Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend - 2013

Happy Memorial Day!

Memorial Day 2013

For those of you outside the USA, this is the day we remember and honor the men and women who have served our country in the military.

Valley Springs is remembering 8 yr old Leila Fowler who was murdered in early May. Her 12 yr old half-brother is in jail accused of the crime. Purple was her favorite color..

Fence at Leila's school

School sign wrapped in purple ribbons - her favorite color

 I have 2 weekends of things to share with you .. last weekend the 18th I was up there and here is what the baby birds looked like... they have their feathers coming in and they were all big! The parents are amazing, constantly feeding them... all 6 were doing well.

But this weekend the box was empty including the nest material... I think they flew away, at least I hope they did. Their parents were back looking to make more babies so I moved the bird house to a tree and nailed it up. I have a bunch of these bird houses that my dad made me for my birthday two years ago, but this is the first one that has been used. I went around to the others to secure them higher up and found that they were being used, but by woodpeckers to store their acorns. Probably 40 in each one!
Acorn stash
The garden is a constant struggle to stay ahead of but I have definitely learned some things over the years there. I have a much more contained area and it is doing well. Here are some more pictures of the from yard area. It is a meadow.. at least that is what I am going for.

Watch out - something is stalking you!
No - it is just Casey supervising again..

This is my front steps with all the dwarf mexican evening primroses. Tough desert flowers.

Sunflowers in the veggie garden are doing well
 There are lots of old houses in the area, former homesteads that have been abandoned. This one is on hwy 12 just the double springs historic marker. I have always wanted to stop and take a picture and now with the roses still alive and blooming I finally did!
Those roses are tough! No water, no care, but look at that color!

Classic farmhouse with the big roof eaves and wrap- around porch to fight the heat. And a grape vine.
I wonder about the stories of the families that lived there and did they leave because they were doing better and moved to a bigger place? Or did they just leave?


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Garlic coming out of my ears and baby birds!

Last weekend was pretty hot but it had some nice points - one is all the stuff is starting to sprout but of course I have forgotten some of the things I have planted. But not the garlic! So back in October I planted some Susanville garlic in the beds that my dad and I put together. This weekend I harvested that garlic and boy, did it do good! I have over 30 heads that are usable and "Nice" and about another 7 or 8 that are small and I will keep. Harvesting was just the first part, then you have to wash them and dry them a bit, the cut off the roots and green part and try to clean them up. It took me over an hour to do that! I made the mistake of trying some of it for dinner that night... umm... fresh, raw garlic will knock your socks off! I have to "cure" these for a while at least a few weeks.
 I have a picture of one of my pumpkin seedlings and a gazania flower as well for you.

Thats a lot of garlic!

Cleaned up and ready to dry



The baby bluebirds hatched sometime around thursday last week.. and they are UGLY!
All 6 ugly little bald birdies!

Eyes are closed still...

I have to tell you though, these bird parents are amazing! Both mom and dad are working on feeding them... and protecting them. They have chased away a rat, yes a rat, and a blue jay.. they are fearless and both work to feed this brood. They make me tired just watching them!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

How to replace a toilet - Yes you can do it yourself!


Part of the chores last weekend was replacing the toilet in the hall bathroom. It is the one that everyone uses because of it's location, and one that I just couldn't repair. The flapper was leaking which made the toilet run constantly. I tried at least 4 different flappers but none of them fit right, so for the last few months I just had it turned off. With Nick and the family coming, I took the opportunity to replace it and teach my nephew and niece how to do it as well. Nick has replaced one already at the Moraga house with his friend Jason, several years ago. At that time, I did actually call a plumber and ask him how much he would charge to install a toilet and the answer was $300! It really isn't that hard to do so here is my tips on installing a new toilet.

First, it is really critical to buy a good toilet with all the parts included. If you get a cheap one, it will not have the wax seal or the seat and it often doesn't go together as easily. I like the American Standard brand because they just go together so well and I bought the "champion 4" model which is advertised as being able to flush a bucket of golf balls. (Although I don't recommend that.) I also like the two piece toilets (tank and bowl are not permanently connected) because they are lighter and if you are by yourself that really helps. One piece toilets are nice looking but heavy!

Step 1 - Turn off the water line and flush the toilet a couple of times. Then you will need to scoop out the remaining water in the bowl. This is Jacob and since he is the "rookie" he gets this job and the nasty wax ring job. Get as much out as you can so there will be less leaking on the floor when you remove the toilet.
After scooping use a sponge to get it all out.
 Step 2 - Unhook everything. There is the water line on the back of the toilet connected to the tank and the 2 bolts on the floor holding the toilet down. Be gentle when unscrewing the nuts- if the bolts and nuts are corroded you can snap them off.
Unscrew both nuts holding the toilet to the floor

Unscrew the water line to the tank. We ended up removing it from the valve and replacing the whole thing.
 Step 3 - Remove the toilet. Nick and Jacob used a dolly to get it out. Pretty Smart!
Toilet is out!
Step 4 - The gross part! All toilets use this wax ring to seal them to the drain. When you take out an old toilet you have to scrape all the wax and "gunk" off the floor. (That is the technical term, gunk.) Once again, rookie Jacob gets that job and he was a pretty good sport about it! But next time he will be quicker to designate someone one else.
Scraping the wax
Step 5 - Preparing for the new toilet. On the side of the drain there are grooves for the bolts. Slide in the new bolts and lock them in place with the washer that is usually included.
New shiny bolts
Step 6 - Installing the new wax ring . First find the wax ring and unwrap it from the wax paper covering. Attached to the wax is a plastic flange that will go into the drain itself. Turn the bowl over and put the wax ring down against the toilet base with the black flange away from the toilet. Be gentle with the toilet and put it on a soft surface and move it around carefully. It is made of porcelain and if it cracks you have to get a new one.
Wax ring installed on the upside down toilet
Step 7 - You need two people at least for this... three would be better. Lift the toilet up and flip it over without putting it down on the floor because you don't want to smash the wax ring. There are 2 holes for the bolts to go through, so line the holes up with the new bolts. Two people maneuvering the toilet with one person guiding works well. When the bolts are lined up, put the toilet down and wiggle it back and forth to start setting the wax. You want it to be level when the wax is done expanding.
Nick applying pressure to set the wax.
 Step 8 - Fasten the nuts to the bolts and once again, gently! If you get too aggressive with tightening the bolts it could crack the porcelain and you will have to start over. (There is a theme here.. even though a toilet is something everyone considers solid and tough, it is made of extremely fragile material. Installation has to be done with that in mind.) Once the bolts to the floor are in, attach the bolts to the tank if it is a two-piece unit.

Nick is taking the high road while Jacob is taking the low to attach the tank.

Step 9 - Attach the water line - I replaced the old plastic water line with a new stainless steel braided one. 

Step 10 - Attach the seat. The girls got into the act at this point and got the seat attached... one held the plastic nut underneath while the other one screwed in the plastic bolt. Here is that word again, gentle. The plastic bolts for the seat can snap as well. You want it tight enough that the seat doesn't move but not too tight that it snaps!
Laine trying to figure it out on her own.

With a little help from Jessy they get it done.

Last step - turn on the water. Make sure everything is tight and turn the water back on while you stand by to make sure you can turn it off quickly if something starts to leak.
Flush it a couple of times, check around the base and you are done!
See how easy that was! Why would you pay a plumber $300 to do this when it is totally a "do-it-yourself" job.