Monday, July 5th, 2010

I didn’t know it had its own ecosystem!

I dragged this old rolled-up carpet out to the curbside because there’s a better than even chance someone driving by will stop, shove it into the back of their vehicle and drive away with it. Beats going through all the work of shoving it the back of my own vehicle and lugging it away to wherever it is we have to go to dispose of old carpets.

You would not believe what we’ve gotten rid of using this method. A month or two ago we lugged a ratty old love seat out to the curb. We’d kept it in the basement for years, “just in case we might want to use it again,” but the only thing living in our house that was interested in using it was mice and earwigs. Out to the curb it went. It was gone in just a few hours.

I put a broken-down computer monitor out there a couple years ago, on top of a pile of other junk I wanted the garbage collection service to haul away. The monitor sat in the rain for two or three days until one morning, not on garbage pick-up day, it disappeared. Someone actually wanted it? I’d be really interested to know what use they got out of that.

And once I put a wardrobe out there with a big sign attached that read, “Free! Take Me Home!” It was a desperation move, because the wardrobe was the size of Kansas. I didn’t honestly believe anyone would go to the trouble of getting a truck big enough to haul it away even if they wanted it, but what the hell, someone did. It stood out there for a couple days until one morning, as I strolled to the front window with a cup of coffee, I caught sight of a tiny woman, and I mean tiny, trying to shove it into the back of her van all by her lonesome. I stood there for a couple minutes just gaping at her in disbelief, mostly amazed that she was managing to horse it around to the back of her van, and also because I couldn’t believe she thought it was going to fit. Then I put my coffee down and grabbed my shoes to go out and help her. By the time I opened the door, though, she had somehow already tucked the wardrobe into the back of her van and was jumping into the driver’s seat. Whoa!

The carpet’s in awful shape, dirty and ragged and well-used, but it could just be that someone is looking for a remnant to lay down in their garage, or garden shed, or chicken coop, and will drag it home with them. I hope so, because I don’t want to handle it again.

It’s been sitting in a corner of the basement long enough that I was pretty sure it would be full of dust and spiders, but man! I was off by a factor of thousands! I found that it had developed its own ecosystem as I separated the carpet from the foam pad. It’d be too heavy for me to drag up the stairs otherwise. Earwigs, spiders, centipedes and who knows what all else ran in all directions as I unrolled it, and when I finally peeled it all the way back to the center I found that several mice had been using it as a boarding house. Yuck.

By the time I was done dragging it up the stairs I was covered in dirt, dust, dead bugs and I don’t want to think what else. I finished by sweeping up, then went straight to the bathroom, peeled out of my dirty work clothes and stood under a gushing shower for twenty minutes, soaping and scrubbing, soaping and scrubbing. If I’d had a bottle of chlorine bleach I would’ve been tempted to pour it all over myself.

To The Curb | 9:25 am CST
Category: daily drivel, Our Humble O'Bode | Tags:
Comments Off on To The Curb

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

image of window

My goal today is simple: Fix this fubar attempt I made to replace a window in the garage two years ago. And to chop that tomato trellis to pieces. Two goals. My two goals today are simple: fix the window and chop up the trellis. And clean the bathroom. Three! My three goals! Okay, among the goals I want to accomplish today … wait, I’ll come in again:

The window was rotten all the way around when we bought the house. Not a great big deal, I thought. It’s just a garage, right? But it was in such awful shape that my do-it-yourself gene kicked in and the next summer I knocked it out and replaced it with the least expensive vinyl window I could find at the local hardware store.

The rough opening for the window isn’t a standard size, though, so I had to knock together a frame from two by fours. It turned out all right, but when I nailed it into the rough opening I didn’t push it back far enough. The way it’s in there now, I can’t put any molding around it. The frame should be sunken into the wall at least an inch or the window will look more like a picture of a window hanging from the garage.

When I fixed the frame in place I used nails big enough to be tent pegs. I don’t know why. Probably because it felt really manly to beat them into the wood with my biggest hammer. Tearing them out would take me a whole afternoon and I’ve never worked up the ambition to do that, until now. In the meantime I mitered some cedar planks and nailed them around the gaps to prevent the Merry Little Breezes from blowing snow into the garage during the winter, and so it didn’t make the garage look like a hillbilly shack. There. That was a big improvement, wasn’t it?

First things first: Let’s chop that tomato trellis into teensy-tiny little bits.

image of a demolished tomato trellis

I made it out of PVC pipe and glued it together with PVC glue, a glue so powerful that it sort of melts the plastic pipes and joins them together molecule by molecule. Once you’ve glued them together, there’s no getting them apart. So, I looked around the garage for something that would quickly and easily slice through PVC pipe and, what do you know, I found an electric reciprocating saw! I think I borrowed this from my uncle Jim last summer when I replaced a couple windows in the back of the house. Guess I should get that back to him now, huh?

The great thing about a reciprocating saw is that it’s like a hyperactive hunting dog: it can’t wait to get to work. When you grab the pistol grip on this bad boy, you can’t help but wrap a finger around the trigger; there just isn’t any room for you to put your index finger anywhere else. Why’s that important to remember? Because if you pick it up by wrapping your hand around the grip, the weight of the thing will force the nose down and you’ll pull the trigger. It’s as inevitable as death and taxes. I must’ve picked up this thing half a dozen times and it cranked itself right up. How I still have all my fingers I don’t know, but I do.

If you’re not clear on why I’m cutting a perfectly good tomato trellis to pieces, let’s just say that assembly didn’t exactly go the way I planned.

image of a window

Okay, back to the window.

The first thing to do is cover over all the gaping holes between the window and the rough opening. My window is thirty-six by thirty-six, but the old window was about thirty-nine by forty. I bought the replacement off the shelf, and the shelf didn’t have any that were the right size, so I went with a smaller window, figuring I would fill in around it. Two years later, here I am, filling in.

I just happened to have just enough half-inch plywood to do the job, and a table saw to rip it into custom-made widths. Part of the reason I didn’t do this last year or the year before – a really big part of the reason – was that I would have had to do all this cutting with a hand saw. Ever ripped a length of plywood with a hand saw? If not, here’s something you can compare it to: Put a chair in your yard, grab a broom, sit down and use the broom to row the chair across the yard as if it were a canoe. Go on. I’ll wait.

image of window

Here’s something else I couldn’t do very easily before: Cut the mitered corners on brick molding.

I have a miter box, of course. Every guy does. I think they come strapped to toolbox saws as a bonus. “Buy the saw – get the miter box absolutely free!” I’ve even tried to use it a dozen times in my life, give or take, but they’re such a huge pain in the ass that I avoid it whenever I can.

Then, at an auction about four years ago, I managed to take home an awesome miter saw. It was a hand saw mounted on a miter gauge so it was still powered by my basic issue Mark One Biceps, but it made mitering a whole lot less like being stretched on a rack by the Inquisition. (I’m going to keep working the Inquisition into this post so you’ll remember to go back and watch the video.)

Even better: I stuck paydirt at another auction just two years ago when I put in the winning bid on a powered miter saw. I can set the cut to any angle I want, and the circular saw will slice through a two-inch-thick length of brick molding faster than you can think, “Oh, shit, I’ve cut my damned thumb off!”

Cutting all the miters on four ordinary pieces of brick molding would have ordinarily taken me a couple hours, but with the powered miter saw it takes me … a couple of hours. I’m not sure how that happens, but at least I don’t have to do it with a hand saw any more. And I get to make a lot more noise.

image of window

This looks like almost the same photo as the one before, but it’s not. I’ve cut up some more brick molding, mitered the corners and nailed it into place to fill in the gaps between the window and the outside ring of brick molding.

I’m not sure why it’s called “brick” molding, in case you’re wondering. It’s one of those homebuilding terms that you never stop any of the people at Home Depot and ask them to explain even though you wonder about it every time you go buy some. Brick molding is just pine stock milled so it’s got a fancy shape that makes it look like a picture frame when you use it to frame around your windows. You can get brick molding made out of vinyl, too, but it’s more expensive. I’m only framing a cheap-ass window in a garage so I wasn’t too worried about buying the premium stuff.

image of window

After all the molding was cut and nailed into place, all that remained was to caulk the hell out of it. Used up a whole brand-new tube of caulk to fill up the various gaps and cracks around the molding. Most of them were pretty modest, but a couple were really very wide and drank up all the caulk I could crank out of the tube. Again, I’m not too worried about making it absolutely weatherproof because it’s a garage window, and because it’s been somewhat less than weatherproof for more than a year (see first photo). I have the feeling I’ll be re-caulking this window again fairly soon.

I should paint it, too. Brick molding comes covered in primer but should be painted. I had to buy a strip of unprimed drip cap, that bare strip of wood at the very top of the molding, because the only drip cap they had in stock that was already primed came in twelve-foot lengths. I don’t think my car is twelve feet long from bumper to bumper, and I wasn’t going to drive home with it on the roof, flapping in the breeze. I suppose I could have broken it in half over my knee so I could get it inside, but I didn’t want to and they can’t make me, nyah.

But I’ve been working on this all frigging day now, almost five hours straight under a hot sun, with a forty-minute break for lunch, so what I really feel like doing right now is not picking up a paint brush and mucking around with that. What I really want to do is take a long shower, then maybe sit on my ass with a book, or maybe even take a nap before I have to go pick up My Darling B from work. After I finish up doinking around on the internet so you can read all about my do-it-yourself home improvement adventures.

Don’t forget the Spanish Inquisition. There. I’m done now.

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition! | 9:18 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, Our Humble O'Bode | Tags:
Comments Off on No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Well, here it is, my first day home after the termination of my position at the office. The whole day’s my own, yet somehow I have a whole week’s worth of work to do. Funny how that happens.

“I wish I could pay you to stay at home and be my house husband,” My Darling B said to me as I drove her to work this morning. She doesn’t know how much I wish she could, too.

Let’s start a list of things I’ve got to do, just for giggles:

  • unload the dish washer, then fill it up again; how pointless is that?
  • wash a Himmalayan mountain of dirty clothes; how two people can make such a mess is beyond me
  • clean the cat pans; these are so smelly now, the cats don’t see the point in covering their shit any more
  • load up the weed whacker with a new spool of floss and go absolutely crazy in the yard
  • clean up the garden shed, which looks like a three-bedroom house that’s been turned inside-out by a Cat Five tornado
  • pet the cats; this sounds trivial, but it turns out this task cannot be ignored whenever one or both of us is at home during the day.
  • clean the bathroom; the less said about that, the better
  • demolish the tomato trellis that’s been leaning against the side of the garage ever since I put it there, out of sight, after gluing it together wrong
  • sweep the dead leaves out of the garage that have been piled up in the back corner since last fall
  • take the tire that went flat on me Saturday morning to the garage to get it patched; can’t Toyota make anything that doesn’t break?
  • take a bike ride; the day’s too lovely not to
  • pull weeds from the herb garden in my copious spare time
  • drink coffee while doinking around on the internet

I guess you can see which end of the list I started on. Making good use of my time, yes sir!

Laundry List | 7:58 pm CST
Category: adventures in unemployment, bicycling, daily drivel, hobby, My Darling B, O'Folks, Our Humble O'Bode, play, scrub-a-dub-dub, work, yard work
Comments Off on Laundry List

Monday, May 24th, 2010

If anything good came of the BP oil spill off the coast of Louisiana last month, it was this: It helped me figure out how to break the clog that stops up our bathtub drain from time to time.

Two or three times a year I can count on a clog so stubborn that the only sure-fire way I found to break it before this was to force water down the drain with a garden hose. It’s a pretty effective method but it takes thirty or forty minutes to drag the hose out, connect it to the laundry spigot, uncoil it across the living room to the bathroom, take the cover off the drain, shove the hose in there and run a couple gallons of water past the clog. And clean-up is a bear.

I always had the sneaking suspicion there had to be a better way that didn’t involve industrial-strength lye or other caustic chemicals, but the answer kept eluding me until I read a story about a guy who cleans up birds and other animals that have been fouled with crude oil. He does that for a living so he has years of experience, and through copious trial and error he found that ordinary dish soap is best for the job. It’s strong enough to break down the oil, but mild enough that it’s easy on bird’s feathers and such.

So yesterday, while I stood staring at the bathtub drain trying to figure out how to bust the latest clog that was backing up an inch of slimy water every time one of us took a shower, I found myself reasoning this way: The clog’s probably not a hairball, because I put a screen over the drain to keep hair from getting down there. Maybe a little bit of hair is still getting through, but not enough to clog the drain, so it must be a greasy clog. And if it’s a greasy clog, I should be able to break it up with ordinary kitchen cleaners. And that’s when I remembered what the bird-cleaning guy said about dish detergent.

This fellow said that he’d tried several brands of dish soap and the one that worked best was Dawn, so when I made the daily trip to the grocery store for food and sundries I picked up a bottle of Dawn dish soap and dropped it in the cart. The only hitch there is, there are maybe a dozen different kinds of Dawn. They make antibacterial Dawn, Dawn with aloe, organic Dawn, and I don’t know what else. I stood there a good five minutes with my thumb in my mouth before I eyeballed the bottle of Just Plain Old Dawn in the lineup.

As soon as I got back from the store I poured about a third of the bottle straight down the drain, figuring that should have been enough to fill the trap. After putting the plug in the drain I filled the tub with water, adding about a cup of detergent to that, too, for good measure, then walked away to let it sit for a couple hours. I wanted to see if the rush of water from the tub would be enough to flush the clog out of the trap. If I could manage to bust this clog without having to snake it, so much the better.

As it turned out, My Darling B came in from the garden about four hours later and pulled the plug before showering off the day’s hard work. When I explained what I was up to she told me, “It worked like a charm.”

So there you have it. Next clog you get in your tub, bust it with some Dawn. The guy who cleans birds recommends it, and now I do, too. If only I owned some stock in the company.

clog | 5:58 am CST
Category: adventures in plumbing, Our Humble O'Bode
Comments Off on clog

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

shrub, yard work, evil, satan, killer death plantPictured: A freshly-beheaded thorny shrub from hell.

Correction: No, not from hell. Is there some place worse than hell? Some place way more painful? Because this shrub is worse than anything hell could spawn. It’s got thorns sharper than kitten’s teeth. Brushing up against it absent-mindedly will cause searing pain and draw blood. To remove it I had to don a pair of heavy leather gauntlets and then, working very gingerly from the outermost branches, prune it one sprig at a time until nothing but the bald root ball was left. I’ll hack that out of the ground later this week.

I admit it, I don’t understand landscaping. It’s one of those arts I just don’t get. Why anyone would consider for a moment planting this abomination in a yard where presumably they’d want to be able to move about without having to wonder if they’re going to injure themselves while retrieving a frisbee is beyond me.

I do understand the whole yin-yang thing, that everything’s got its place in the world, that even things which seem bad have their good points. This is, I have to admit, a pretty shrub after its leaves turn rusty red, but those killer death thorns take away from all the pretty redness of the leaves. I don’t want to be in the same county, much less the same yard, with a shrub like this one.

This was the last one standing. There used to be two more in the front yard. I let Tim tear them out with a pick axe, which he was all too willing to do after he poked holes in his hands (I told him to be careful). This one was growing in the spot to the left of the air conditioning unit where it was mostly out of the way, so I let it live until today. I’m going to finish painting the house this summer (promise, Dear!), though, and that shrub was going to be in my way, so bye-bye devil shrub from worse-than-hell! Time to die!

killer death shrub | 1:26 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, Our Humble O'Bode | Tags:
Comments Off on killer death shrub

I don’t need no stinking reason to put the granola in the refrigerator, do I? I can absentmindedly put it in there without it meaning anything, don’t you think? I put it there before I drank my second cup of coffee, so I wasn’t even hitting on all four cylinders yet (I’m a compact model). So it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m losing my marbles, right? Besides, I’ll bet granola keeps longer if you put it in the fridge. Just sayin’.

bookshelf, books, book porn, basement lair, man caveIt’s been a day of being distracted by things I’ve been planning to do for days, weeks, years, and finally doing them. I didn’t have solid plans to do anything specific today; mostly, I planned to sit on my butt and read. I finally cracked open my copy of Rocketman, a memoir of moonwalker Pete Conrad, last night and gobbled up the first ten chapters even though it kept me up past my bed time. I started right in again where I left off while I made the morning pot o’ java after I looked out the front window and saw the newspaper hadn’t been delivered yet. I’m a little more than halfway through the book already and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it kept me up past my bed time again tonight.

Because I keep getting distracted, right? I took a trip to the hardware store this morning, looking for some pipes to drain the rainwater away from the downspout at the corner of the garage, and came back with some shelving brackets, plywood and four bags of topsoil for the planter out front.

The topsoil was pure inspiration. My Darling B has this yearly ritual of buying a flat of posies in the spring, then leaving them out front on the porch or the sidewalk or, a variation this year, on the back deck and forgetting about them until they die. For whatever reason, the image of a flat of dying posies flashed before my eyes as I passed the gardening supplies and, lucky me, the top soil was on sale. I stuffed as many of the bags as would under my push cart and moved on.

The plywood got ripped into bookshelves for my basement lair because I wasn’t going to pay eighty bucks for a finished bookshelf when I could rip three shelves from a two-by-four foot piece of half-inch plywood I could buy for four dollars. And the bookshelves were a gotta-have. I’ve been carrying home bargain books from Saint Vinnie’s all winter long so they’re falling off the shelves in the basement where they’re doubled up and stacked until every bit of every shelf has been crammed with books. A set of shelves over my desk was long overdue.

A set of shelves which, by the way, somehow emphasized how little direct light I have on my desk. I’d been thinking about repositioning the overhead track lights all winter, when I had plenty of spare time to do that sort of thing, yet never got around to it, somehow. Today being a day of distractions, though, I found myself up on a stool with a power drill, unscrewing the tracks and moving them to a spot on the ceiling over my desk where I could point them so I could see stuff. Zow!

With that all done I finally had time to … wait, I’ve got to re-hang all the photos I took down to put up the book shelves.

distract– SQUIRREL! | 9:31 am CST
Category: daily drivel, Our Humble O'Bode | Tags: ,
Comments Off on distract– SQUIRREL!

Monday, April 26th, 2010

I read in one of those handyman magazines that you can recycle the filters in the exhaust hood over your stove top by shoving them in the dish washer. What a great idea! I even felt just a bit ashamed I hadn’t thought of it myself.

Turns out it’s a stupid idea. Make that: It’s a very stupid idea. Don’t do that.

My came out shredded, barely recognizable as filters any more. It was such a bad idea that I hid them away in the basement for weeks in shame, not even daring to put them in the trash can for fear that the garbage men would see them. “Hey, Larry! Looks like another handy-man wannabe ran his oven hood filters through the dish washer!”

But the ignominy of falling prey to a stupid idea was finally overcome tonight by the growing weight of my neglect. My Darling B has been ever so patiently asking me to replace the missing oven hood filters while carrying on working in the kitchen anyway. What a trooper. Then, tonight, the overhead lights on the oven hood blew. It was time to act. I dredged the tattered filters out of their basement hidey hole and took them for a ride over to the hardware store.

For a few panicked minutes as I wandered the aisles, I was tortured by the thought that maybe they didn’t make filters anymore in the size I needed. Somehow, that turned out not to be the case. Just the opposite, in fact: The size I needed turned out to be one of the most common sizes available. How often does that happen? I almost got two sets, just to have two sets, because in my heart of hearts I’m a hoarder. I could have had a dozen, but managed to restrain myself. I’ll have a house bulging with spent filters one day, but not yet. I took home only one set, and a pair of light bulbs. Our oven hood is once again anatomically correct and fully functional.

filtered | 6:38 am CST
Category: Our Humble O'Bode
Comments Off on filtered

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

On this misty, crappy, cold day we declined to make the usual weekly circuit of the farmer’s market, so instead My Darling B offered to take me to Plaka Taverna for brunch.

Plaka used to be Cleveland’s Diner, one of our favorite places to get breakfast on a Sunday, and they still serve what they call “the traditional Cleveland’s Diner breakfast,” so I took her up on it without thinking twice.

My favorite breakfast is The Deuce: two scrambled eggs, bacon, and a couple buttermilk pancakes. B’s favorite is the sausage and egg sandwich.

We still made our customary stop on Willy Street on the way home, B to shop at the co-op and me to check out the book store at Saint Vinnie’s where I found a copy of Asimov’s Foundation trilogy and Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, a cracking good thought experiment.

Then it was home to … yard work! Even though everything outside was wet, I still trooped into the front yard to salvage as much as I could from the cedar tree I cut down last month. I piled the branches up and the curb and had hopes that I would be able to run it all through the chipper by now, but no luck there. Instead, I cut off all the branches I thought I could grind into useful mulch and stacked them in the back yard where the city crew wouldn’t haul them away next week.

While I was peeling back the layers of cedar boughs I found one of the bunnies that had been nesting in our planter. Curled up in a tight little furry ball, he seemed more than a little scared and not sure what to do after I exposed him to the elements, so I took a break to give him time to find a new hidey hole, which he must have done because he wasn’t there when I went back to work a half-hour later.

The only other thing I did that counts as getting anything done was a couple loads of laundry, and replace the outdoor electrical outlet in the back yard, which was a plain old socket. I’d been worrying about that ever since I read an article in a handyman magazine that said it really should be a GFCI outlet, giving me nightmares of My Darling B electrocuted by her electric tiller. Maybe I’ll get some sleep now.

that was the day that was | 5:49 pm CST
Category: books, daily drivel, entertainment, farmer's market, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, Our Humble O'Bode, play, restaurants, yard work | Tags:
Comments Off on that was the day that was

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

It was a day of yard work …

After breakfast at the farmer’s market and a quick stop at the thrift store to see if there were any books I had to bring home (there weren’t, but My Darling B found a platter she absolutely had to have), we took time out to have one last cup of coffee before changing into our work clothes and heading into the yard to clean up the mess we made out there when we started our spring cleaning. It makes sense in a twisted kind of way.

I spent the better part of an hour hacking up branches with a bow saw and feeding them into a wood chipper before Tim stopped by, at his mother’s request, to help us tear down a retaining wall and rebuild it. The wall holding up her herb garden had shifted quite a bit during the winter until it looked as though it would fall over at the barest suggestion, so we took it apart, setting the hundred or so bricks to one side while we cut back the wall of dirt left behind, then re-stacked the bricks so they leaned into the dirt ever so slightly. With any luck at all, that should hold the herb garden back at least another year.

When we were done with that I asked Tim, “Wanna see our new power tool that can eat trees?” No guy can resist a suggestion like that. He followed me to the back yard like a lost puppy. I thought he would maybe say a few admiring words about the wood chipper, maybe play along and mulch a few branches, then take his leave, and when he disappeared into the house I was sure I was right, but he soon came back and said to me, “Mom told me I could use it, too.” Damn kid did an end-run without even bothering to give me the courtesy of saying no first.

So for the next hour or so I cut up yard waste into easy-to-handle bits while he fed them into the chipper, and you know I think he really liked it. He said he might have to get one for himself, which would be kind of odd and maybe even a little scary for a guy who lives in an apartment but I sincerely understand the way he feels about it. You don’t really, until you’ve had your own chipper.

He had to take off at about three o’clock so I finished up the few branches he left behind, then stretched out on the sofa to rest my eyes a bit while My Darling B mulched some leaves. Everybody’s got to get a little time on the chipper or the day’s just not complete.

When I woke, B was beside me on the sofa, googling one thing or another on her laptop, probably food or gardening, maybe both. I put my shoes back on, got out our new power mower and tried it out on the front lawn, which has been looking a little bit shaggy the past few days.

Our new mower is electric because yes, we are a couple of tree-hugging hippie weirdo freaks. And I have to say that, even if it’s not saving the earth, an electric mower is one hell of a lot better than one powered by a two-stroke engine because first of all it doesn’t weigh more than Godzilla. I can turn it around with a finger but I don’t have to because it’s got a flip-over handle and why don’t gas mowers have that anyway? See, there are two things I don’t miss about a gas mower and I’ve only cut the grass on the front lawn.

After mowing the front yard I called it quits. There’s just so much yard work a guy can tolerate in a day.

After cleaning up I ran to Bongo Video to rent a movie and came back with Zombieland, maybe the best zombie movie ever made, and we watched it while finishing off the better part of two ten-inch pizzas from Glass Nickel Pizza Company. Tim even came back to join in the festivities. Almost a perfect day.

Saturday | 10:11 am CST
Category: Our Humble O'Bode, yard work
Comments Off on Saturday

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

yard workI spent the afternoon trimming branches off some of the bushes in the yard that got hammered pretty badly by the monster snowfall we had back in December. After having a look at the damage to the great big cedar in the front yard I figured it had to come down completely; the problem was, it was really a tree, not a bush. I don’t have the tools to cut down a tree.

I suppose it probably started life as a shrub, and maybe it remained a shrub for many years, but at some point it grew wildly out of control and it’s been a tree by virtue of its enormous size since before we moved in. It was about twenty feet tall and had a trunk that was probably a foot thick at its base. I’ve got a pruning saw and a bow saw. I might as well have tried to cut it down with a toenail clippers.

But I made a start of it by lopping off the broken branches I could reach, then stepping up onto a low branch and lopping off a few more, and so on until I had climbed about ten feet up into the branches and had managed to hack away just about all of the topmost branches.

yard workThis was about the time Harley showed up. Harley almost always comes over when I’m doing yard work to see what I’m up to and offer to help if he can. This often turns out well because Harley seems to collect chain saws the way I collect typewriters. As it turned out, he just bought a new one last weekend and seemed to be itching to try it out. “Did you want to cut the whole thing down?” he asked eagerly. Why yes, Harley, I believe I did.

So he went back to his place to break out his new toy. In the meantime, I trimmed off as many of the lower branches as I could to make it easier for him to get at the base of the monster. When he came back, it took him barely ten minutes to do what I would have needed a couple weeks of heart-pounding work to finish with my little bow saw. Harley is the coolest neighbor I believe I’ve ever had.

Once the beast was felled he cut the trunk into chunks about a foot long and advised me to stack them by the curb. “They usually disappear overnight when you do that,” he said.

yard work

felled | 8:10 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, Our Humble O'Bode | Tags:
Comments Off on felled

Friday, March 19th, 2010

I had to come up with something quick and easy to serve for guy night because I had to have plenty of time to perform a minor plumbing unblockage on the pipe that the kitchen sink drains into. When it’s blocked all the goop backs up and pools in the basement sink. It’s pretty gross.

So we stopped at the co-op on the way home to buy some sliced ham and some cheese and I pan-fried some ham & cheese sandwiches. Voila! Dinner! We even splurged and I served them with Tater Tots because we called Tim on the way home to invite him over for ham and cheese and plumbing fun, but he didn’t answer his phone and apparently doesn’t check his messages, so we had the Tater Tots all to ourselves.

We also picked up copies of the Isthmus, a weekly advertising tabloid that just printed the schedule for the Wisconsin Film Festival that My Darling B and I started going to last year and will now go to each year until we’re too decrepit to move under our own power because it’s that much fun. We even asked for several days off from work so we could see more films this year. After our delicious, nutritious dinner we sat reading the film schedule for almost an hour, ticking off the films that interested us. We haven’t compared notes yet so I don’t even know whether or not B got through the whole schedule yet. I didn’t.

Then it was on to plumbing fun! I’ve carried out this particular operation before so I knew just what to do, and exactly how much I didn’t like to do it. First thing was to take apart the p-trap under the kitchen sink and the basement sink. Pretty straightforward, smells a bit, gets the hands very dirty. Next step: Bring in a garden hose, hook it up to the spigot in the laundry. That part really sucks because I have to either move the wash machine out of the way, which I’m not going to do unless I have all afternoon or a trained gorilla to move it, or I can work in the four-inch space between the machine and the wall. Takes forever to work a wrench in that four-inch space and I usually bark my knuckles bloody.

I hooked up another hose downstairs for the basement sink. To the end of each hose I attached a black rubber bulb. The bulb goes in the drain pipe and fills with water when the hose is turned on so that the bulb blocks the pipe and forms a plug from which, theoretically, no water can escape. A small hole in the end of the bulb shoots a jet of water down the drain. Turn both hoses on, let the water run for a while and, theoretically again, the water will push the blockage down the pipe and into the sewer. Worked last time I tried it. And worked again this time.

It’s a pretty simple, cheap fix, really. We already have garden hose, and the little black rubber bulbs cost about a buck fifty each at the hardware store. Saved us a couple hundred dollars getting a plumber out here, who would probably have done what I did.

The part I really hate is the clean-up. The hoses always dribble all over the floor no matter how care I am while I unhook them. I have to drag the long hose outside to drain it, and it weighs something like a thousand pounds when it’s full of water. The rubber bulbs get covered with nasty sewer pipe gunk that has to be washed off because it smells like Satan’s farts. I’d be tempted to just throw them away and get new ones if I didn’t use them so often. And finally, I have to put the p-traps back together. My fingernails are gray for a week after all this.

But the drains work and we can wash clothes again, yay.

guy night | 6:33 am CST
Category: adventures in plumbing, daily drivel, entertainment, festivals, food & drink, Guy Night, movies, Our Humble O'Bode, play, Wisc Film Fest
Comments Off on guy night

Monday, January 18th, 2010

brassworkWho would look at a nifty brass light fixture like this one and think, “You know, what would really make that look better is an uneven coat of crap-colored spray paint. And I just happen to have a can in the basement!”

My Darling B got this for me at the last auction we went to. I think she paid all of three bucks for it. As is, it looked like she paid too much for it, but after a couple hours careful work with a wire brush attachment in a Dremel moto-tool I got it to look like this. The paint, lumpy and old, just went poof! when the wire brush hit it. Took a while to get it out of all those little nooks and crannies, though.

She got the rest of the lamp, too, all but the shade and the light bulb. It’s a floor lamp on a tall wooden spindle. The spindle looks great, only needs a quick bit of sanding and staining, but the base needs quite a lot of work. I’m not sure there’s enough glue in my work shop to put it back together, maybe not in all the Ace hardware stores in Madison. But even if I throw that away, the brass was worth it.

brasswork | 3:29 pm CST
Category: hobby, Our Humble O'Bode, scrub-a-dub-dub
Comments Off on brasswork

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

I spent the morning atop a step ladder, painting the ceiling in one of the bedrooms, which freaked the heck out of the cats. They always get a little twitchy whenever we’re not sitting on our butts or sleeping because, really, that’s what they see us do most of the time.

In the morning after our showers we sit down to eat our breakfast, then we disappear for the whole day. When we come home from work we sit down to eat dinner, then we sit down to read or otherwise relax in the living room, then we go to bed. On the weekends we usually go somewhere. If we don’t, we usually sit and read, or sit and eat, or go to sleep.

Breaking the routine is apparently so weird they just don’t know what do to with themselves, prowling restlessly and making distressed little mewing sounds.

But you gotta do what you gotta do, no matter how unhappy it makes the cats. When we moved here almost five years ago, Tim asked if he could paint his room. The walls were a, shall we say, vibrant shade of burgundy. He wanted plain old blue, so we bought him a pail of paint and said have at it. He did a pretty good job of it, too. Masked off the baseboards and put down lots of newspaper, but he never masked off the tops of the walls, so the blue ended up all around the upper edges of the ceiling.

Now that Tim’s moved out, we want to use that room as an office, put a desk and some shelves and a filing cabinet in there. But before we move all that crap in there, tidying up the paint on the ceiling would be a good idea, so that’s why I was scaring the cats this morning. And I got to sniff paint fumes for a couple hours, too. Latex paint, though, darn it. It’s like trying to get high off watercolors.

LATER: As it turned out, it wasn’t the quick tidying-up job I thought it would be. The flat white paint made the edges of the ceiling look a little too good, and now the rest of the ceiling, paint faded with age, will have to be completely repainted. Isn’t that just the way?

painterly | 8:41 pm CST
Category: Our Humble O'Bode, painting
Comments Off on painterly