Sunday, July 13, 2014

Leaky Pipes

The cold water supply pipe sprung a leak Friday. I immediately bought one of those pipe wrap clamps to stop the leak. Everyone with old galvanized pipe should have one or two of these in their emergency tools/parts.

The following day I bought the necessary fittings and pipe to fix the leak and re-plumb the entire cold water plumbing.  As I started working, gathering supplies and tools Toly (age 7) asked Whatcha? I asked him if he wanted to help. He gleefully said sure.

Crawling under our house is not as bad as some crawl spaces I have been in. Working on hands and knees makes for slow grueling work. Toly was instrumental in helping gather, transport tools and supplies to the further reaches of the crawl space. I explained exactly what we were doing and he really really helped. I had him trace the cold line and put tape on all the cold pipes as a marker. We didn't want to cut any of the hot water supply lines or, God forbid, any of the gas lines. It is a tangled mess of pipe doubling back and forth of hot, cold and gas lines. Together we sized up the entire cold supply to all the fixtures in the baths, kitchen, utility/laundry room, outside spigots and water heater supply. We formed a plan to logically and efficiently re-route all the cold water plumbing.

We did as much prep work as possible while the dishwasher and laundry machine finished their cycles. When it came time to start cutting on the pipe we needed buckets to catch the residual water. Toly scampered from under the house and retrieved some buckets. Water still got everywhere regardless of our efforts to the contrary. Luckily the entire crawl-space is covered in billboard tarp. Otherwise we would have been more than soggy. We would have been covered in mud and watery filth.

I showed Toly how to clean pipe and fittings. I taught him the different sizes that we were using and the different names for the fittings. We referenced shapes and angles from his everyday life. He really paid attention and I could see several leaps in understanding in his brain as they occurred. We were under there for a few hours my knees were killing me and my legs were cramping. He had been helping all this time without any promise of reward or special favor.

As I rested in a dryish spot I explained to him how helpful he was being to me and that the deserves a special treat. He is still undecided what it will be as yet. After we cleaned, fluxed and fit together the pipe we braced it  and I showed Toly how to solder the fittings together. Melting metal fascinated him. The tiny droplets of excessive solder were an especially big hit. We used a few sharkbite fittings in places were it is impossible to safely use a torch. Sharkbite fittings are way too expensive to use everywhere but sometimes necessary.

Here is some of the pipe that we removed we left an entire abandoned 50 foot section attached to the rafters because it can wait until next time.

 It feels so good to have re-plumbed all the cold supply lines in copper. No more drinking water from old galvanized pipe. A major leap forward in making our home "RIGHT"

The next step will be to replace all the hot water pipe. Even though there are fewer hot water fixtures re-plumbing the hot water pipe will be at least equally as complicated because I want to install a recirculating loop to the water heater so that we don't continue to waste water while waiting for it to get hot.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A daunting obstacle

Our backyard had been overrun with bamboo. The previous tenants simply let it invade. Invade it did. Several months ago both our side neighboring fences blew over during a wind storm. We promptly bought new fencing and replaced the fence on the west side of our house. The east side was a bit more daunting. It is where most of the bamboo was encroaching. I needed to address the invasion before committing to building a fence. It took several months to muster the courage to begin this task. Winter illness, then a new baby, then life generally got in the way. Now O'Melay birthday season is upon us. Tristan says all he wants for his birthday is to have his room done. The precursor to being able to do his room has been completing the east fence.

Tristan is a good boy and totally deserves his own room. So in an effort to try to get his room ready for his birthday in August last weekend Friday I started digging the trench for the bamboo guard.

Several blisters later and a mild sun burn I buried the heavy plastic barrier two and a half feet deep. Everywhere you see exposed dirt was completely thick with bamboo culms. Miserable digging--not as bad as Ozark rocky clay soil though.

It isn't actual bamboo guard. I couldn't afford the official product. What I installed is super heavy PVC roofing material I was given recycled from a commercial roofing company.

I used the concrete rubble to hold it in place while I back filled.

The following Friday (this past Friday) I started the fence. digging holes, pouring cement and letting it set over night. This morning we hung all the planks and voilà... a fence

Then later this evening we got ambitious and planted our fruit trees. It is finally our home. Fruit trees = Future food and sustainability.

the super dwarf peach

the dwarf meyer lemon

the blenheim apricot 

and a santa rosa plum
Best of all they are now protected from that bad bamboo.

Our back tomatoes seem to be doing ok. The tree collard on the right and some swiss chard on the left.

 Tomatos tied to our bean arch.
 Cucumbers should start climbing on the other side soon.
 The compost bins that I built a few weeks ago to take the extra compost from berkeley free compost. They were mostly full a few weeks ago.
 Rome picked out a Romneya poppy, we'll plant it very soon.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


Born March 3rd at 9pm. Eight pounds five ounces of O'Melay joy.

It is sweet to see how much the kids love her. 

She has been nursing constantly.

Toly is especially attached. He didn't want to leave her even to go to park day.

But, Rome is the self professed "main" big brother. Everyone else has already had a younger sibling.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

My work has been brutally busy

I say this as an apology for not making a blog entry yesterday.

It is funny how clumpy things get. No matter how much planning to try to keep things steady they naturally seem to clump together regardless of efforts to the contrary. Suppliers outright lie and say "such and such will be here in a few days." It usually ends up days or weeks later. Meanwhile, I have scheduled a crew and the construction deadline approaches.

ENOUGH complaining.

Things are generally wonderful at my job. I have just the right mix of challenges and successes to make me fulfilled.

Tabitha has been in the garden. Our fall/winter garden should do very well. We had an excellent dinner the other night that included our own red swiss chard. There is something about growing something then eating it fresh that makes it so incredible. Surely freshness isn't the only factor. I just can't explain it. It is one of the things that make gardening so rewarding.

And then there is this...

Tuesday, November 05, 2013


I am trying to go swimming regularly. I love swimming. I missed it terribly when we lived in Missouri. We would go to the creek occasionally but it isn't the same as being able to go swimming anytime you like.

The pool at our local YMCA is a saline pool and extraordinarily clean. Well, there are actually three pools. One shallow pool mostly for kids babies and pregnant women. It is very warm--too warm for me. The deep pool is medium temperature and where I take the kids to "family swim." We try to swim a couple of times per week. Kassi and Tristan are full-on swimmers. Toly is almost there. He can dive under to the shallow bottom to retrieve stuff. Rome is still aquatically challenged. He wears a strap on floaty. Although, he is exceptionally comfortable in the water. It won't be long before he will swim without the floaty.

The Lap pool is great the perfect lap swim temperature. It is huge, Olympic sized. Swimming today I got a second wind and swam twice as long as the last time. My arms are still like noodles hours later. I'll probably keep to this amount for a while.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Half of the vapor barrier is in

Here is the pile of urbanite aka pieces of concrete.

The kids helped me finish getting all of the urbanite from under the house. I'm not sure why it was there. I entertained lots of reasons why it might be there but all of them ended in someone was lazy. So those big pieces of concrete were there because of laziness--and now they are not.

I wrestled with the tarp in the front yard to be sure that it would unfold the right direction once I wrestled it into place. Unfolding it was crazy exercise--haunched over pulling with all my strength while Kassi and Toly weighted the part to stay in place. That tarp material isn't the easies thing to work with under the best of conditions. Eventually after probably an hour I was pouring with sweat and panting like a dog on a hot summer day.

We did it. It is now covering half of my crawl space.

It seems so much better under there already. Next weekend we'll finish the second Half

Sunday, November 03, 2013

The crawl space under our house.

Our house had a high humidity issue last winter. This is probably due to water pooling along the east side after rain. This water/moisture found it's way under our house. Also, the down spouts didn't direct the water away from the foundation around the rest of the house. Early last spring along with installing our raised bed out front I put in a french drain to alleviate the pooling issue.

During this past summer at my job we installed solar on a house that had the crawlspace finished-off with a heavy-duty big top style tarp. It was sealed to the edges of the foundation and made for the most pleasant crawl space. I instantly thought 'I wish I had some billboard tarp like I used everywhere on the farm.'

I called all the billboard advertisements for billboards in search of my quarry. All my efforts ended with "no, our customers don't want their branding misappropriated." As the summer sped by my search became more frantic. Finally, Tabitha found a place that sells used billboard tarp online--they re-print black over the Advertisements. The prices are substantially more than I wanted to spend but still an excellent value. We bought some.

Under our house was a significant amount of urbanite scattered around trying to poke holes in my newly purchased vapor barrier tarp. Yesterday Toly, Kassi and I began the arduous process of removing the urbanite. Most kids would be horrified of going under a house where a spider might live in the dark. I admit they were a little scared at first--I cleared most of the cobwebs prior to soliciting their help. Their residual fear was easily overcome with the prospect of helping Daddy work. They are such good kids.

We hauled over two dozen full five gallon buckets of the smaller pieces and the better part of a pickup truck bed full of the larger pieces. Some of the pieces took both Toly and Kassi pushing and rolling to get them out. We worked and worked. After several hours, Tabitha suggested that we take a break and go to the local nursery. Boy am I glad for that because I am very sore today and surely would have been much worse.

After church today I'll install tarp on the Western half of the house after a few more buckets of little pieces. The eastern side will be a bit more tricky I'll need to cut-in around the chimney foundation and other obstacles.

Once this tarp is down I will start installing some pex lines for some under floor radiant heat. I have some electrical things to finish. Then there is the task of removing all the galvanized plumbing and replacing it with copper. But, first I will install some lighting under there to make all the above work easier.

I'll add some photos to this post later today... so check back.
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