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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Keeping my job during snow season...

The title of this post explains why I bought a tractor.  Its a nice little Japanese tractor called a Yanmar 1300.  Yanmar now makes all the smaller tractors for John Deere.
I've always wanted a tractor, and now I finally have a really good excuse.  Due to the odd hours I keep at the power plant, I didn't feel comfortable relying on a snow removal guy to keep my driveway cleared at 5:00 AM every time it snows. 

It's a pretty small tractor, but it shouldn't take very long to clear the driveway.  As you can see in the photo, it has a loader and the thing on the back is a rotary tiller.  Chewing up soil to set up a garden next spring is gonna be a snap!  It also came with a rear blade, which should handle the majority of the snow removal.  It was really important to have a tractor with a loader for when we get a really big snowfall, and I have to actually remove snow to a pile somewhere.

It's a nice little tractor with a live PTO, 4x4 drive, and a 3 point hydraulic-lift hitch.  So although its a small diesel tractor, it's the real deal.  Besides, if I need to get between trees (likely), it's way more practical than one of the cool old antiques I was interested in. 

Like the Farmall Super H:
Or the Deere Model B:
Both are beautiful classics, but unfortunately they are way larger than I need, and are not practical for using with a loader :(   I may someday pick one up for restoration and for fun though... I just love how they look!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Dachshund Blocker

It didn't seem like I did a good job of explaining my little dog gate, so I took a couple of photos this morning.

This is a picture of the front side of the gate.  It's pretty low, so less of a trip hazard.  Still keeps the dog out though!

Here is a picture from above.  See how it clamps to the center piece of the door frame?  If you look carefully, you can see the felt dots I installed to keep the wood from scuffing the door frame.

Lastly, here is a picture from behind.  Here the felt buttons are easy to see.  I slotted the back rails so that they could slide over to remove the gate.  It's not a pretty piece of work, but it's practical and I thought it was cool enough to share.

Come and meet my little friend...  The Ridgid TS2424

Friday, July 27, 2012

2.5 days of company

Mom came up for a visit, at my suggestion.  She arrived the day of my last night shift, so we didn't have much time to chat before I went to work.  And then I had a couple of days off (one of which involved taking Grace to the dentist for a couple of extractions).

I felt guilty about not accomplishing much of anything at the house, even though I had the excuse of company. 

Corie had a small card table wedged up against the laundry room opening.  The purpose of this was to keep the dog away from the cat's food and litterbox.  It's gross, but for some reason dogs like to much on cat poop.  So we had to keep the dachshund out of the cat box.

My mom managed to catch her foot on the top of that card table while leaving the laundry room and fell flat on her face in the hallway.  Fortunately she wasn't hurt.  However the incident made a back-burner project a front-burner one.

I got out the table saw and cut a 30" x 16" piece of pressboard to fit tightly in the doorway.  Then I fastened two stand-off rails on either side.  Next I made slots in two additional rails, so that they could slide over and lock and unlock the thing in the doorway.  Lastly I put little felt buttons on all the surfaces contacting the woodwork in the doorway so that it wouldn't damage the finish. 

It looks pretty good, is a few inches lower, keeps the dog out of the laundry room.  I now simply need to paint the thing and all will be well.

Yesteday though was a lot of fun.  We wanted to go to Sandpoint (and we did), but decided to check out a couple of local lakes on some back-roads.  We went to Granite Lake and Kelso Lake.  Below are a few images of Kelso Lake from the public dock.  Just a really nice quiet fishing lake.

This is a quick panorama from East to West (left to right).


Afterwards, we managed to get lost.  None of the dirt roads were marked.  The digital compass in the inaptly-named Explorer always read "SW" regardless of what direction I turned.  Eventually we popped out near Priest River, crossed a bridge, and headed East to Sandpoint.  I had to get on Google Earth after we got home to determine where we had been.

Looks like a forest service map and remembering to bring along the GPS will be useful in the future.  I suppose I could have used the Navigator on the Blackberry, but there wasn't much cell service in the back-country.  I think it needs cell service to load the appropriate map.

Eventually we made it to Sandpoint, after seeing a lot of neat new country.  And then we had Huckleberry Ice Cream cones!  Beats running out of gas in the wilderness and getting eaten by a bear... ;)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Seven off

Sooo... the DuPont schedule puts you through hell for 3 weeks and then compensates you with 7 days off in a row.  Not the ideal schedule, but there is a bright side to it.

So here (in pictures) is what I accomplished on this 7 off:

Furniture purchase and placement.  And placement.  First she wanted it upstairs.... then she wanted it downstairs...
Currently the furniture is on the main floor.  It looks very nice.

But we also were under a deadline.  We had ordered carpet for the basement, and had to have everything clear of where carpet was to be installed.  When we moved in, the two basement bedrooms had strange carpet that didn't match the rest of the house and had stains etc.

Below:  The basement front bedroom before painting and carpet.

Below:  The basement front bedroom as it is right now, with new, non-green paint and high-quality carpet.  Note:  I used the blackberry camera for the second photo, without allowing the CF lights a chance to warm up...  It really is a much whiter color than the photo shows.

Below: The basement back bedroom before painting and carpet.  I had rolled on some paint to see which was preferable for a basement.  The above two photos are intended to show the carpet in the basement. FYI we chose the color on the right.

Below:  The same bedroom with the color on the right and new carpet.   Again the blackberry camera takes with cold CF lighting took a yellower photo.

This 7 off I also had asked a painter to get all our doors and paint them the same as the walls.  We hauled them to the shop and he masked off the shop for the project.  This pictue reminds me of the movie Monsters, Inc.

Here is a picture of one of the large basement rooms after paint and carpet.

Same room, opposite direction.

And after having the carpet finally replaced, we were able to begin unpacking!!!  The big room in the basement will be for Grace to goof off.  The other large (unfinished) room will be for lifting iron.

Here is a picture of the TV room, with the front speaker installation showing.  They don't exactly blend in with the wall, do they?  But I suppose they look better than stand-alone speakers.

I also added rear speakers.  The previous owner just left us with wires dangling through holes in the ceiling.  I wanted a cleaner look, but it's been a back-burner project...

Below is a photo of "Grace's basement hide-out" before we got started.  Bare concrete floor, no texture or paint, and a bare incandescent light.

Currently: Baseboards, textured walls, fuscia paint, carpet, fancy light fixture, and a bean-bag chair!  All under the basement stairs!

It's been a very busy week, but I finally had a tiny amount of time to begin straightening out the shop.  I was at least able to begin hanging a lot of long-handled crap :).  Really looking forward to having a shop heater and safety rails on the mezzanine.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

New Family Member

After the road trip yesterday, we went to the Animal Shelter and picked up a kitten.  Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of her yet.  She's a 13 week-old long haired White/Gray kitty who definitely likes to be petted.

One thing we hadn't thought of is that she's lived in a cage at the shelter for most of her life, and she doesn't seem to have much character as yet.  She's very timid, and doesn't want to play very much.  I am hopeful that she will develop some desire to interact with her owners.  The family dog is not much help in this regard.

Bridget the dachshund is so eager to play with the cat that she is scaring it half to death.  When they finally got face to face, the dog was all over her, sniffing and poking her rear end.  Cats like to have a little space, but the dog doesn't understand that of course.  And the dog whines for hours when she can see the cat, but can't get to her.  Very annoying.  We will see how it plays out as the cat becomes more comfortable with her new home. 

Road Trip!

Today I installed the front In-Wall home theater speakers.  They look about like the ones in the photo, and they don't blend into the wall very well at all.  However they do look nice, and I managed to get them placed correctly (level and centered) on the wall without hitting a stud.

I really wanted to mow the yard, but the weather was not cooperating.  It hailed, rained, blew and got sunny - but the grass was really wet, so I didn't bother.  Perhaps tomorrow.

Monday was my only day off between days and nights, and I had a mission in mind.  I had found a really cool old "monitor top" refrigerator for sale on Craigslist, in Kettle Falls, WA.  So we made the two hour trip over and picked it up.  It was an enjoyable family trip, and we got to check out some of the surrounding area of where we now live.  But the cool thing is the treasure I brought home!

It works and looks awesomely retro!  The tag on it says "General Electric Refrigerating Machine".
I guess "refrigerator" wasn't a word back then.

It works and freezes water in the freezer section.  The electrical cord is frayed and needs to be replaced.  I may or may not restore it to new.  It wouldn't take much to sand it down, repaint it with enamel and get the handful of metal parts re-chromed.  Either way it's pretty cool!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Home Theater

The upstairs area (above the garage) was set up for home theater by the previous owner.  The room is pre-wired for surround speakers, and not seeing any need to re-invent the wheel, we put our own TV and DVD player there. 

I have a surround receiver/amplifier, but haven't had it hooked up for ages because we've been renting.  My old speakers didn't attach to the brackets the previous owner left behind, and my speakers are now so old that I probably can't find brackets to fit them.  To solve this dilemma with a minimal time investment on my part, I pulled off the old brackets and bought new speakers and brackets.  The old brackets were black, and with the new light paint, I figured that perhaps white speakers were in order.  I also purchased new In-Wall speakers for the front pair, in order to keep the room as uncluttered as possible.

The box from Amazon is at the house, waiting for me to get a day off that isn't otherwise scheduled.  Here is what is inside:  Rear speakers with mounting hardware, plus front In-wall speakers.

For the front speakers, I hope the finished installation will look something like this, with the speaker grilles more or less blending in with the wall.  If they look obnoxious in white, well, they are also paintable.  And I have plenty of that around the house after painting the entire thing!

Silverwood - Boulder Beach

The last day of my 2.5 days off, I slept in.  I deserved that much.  Then we went to the local theme park for some summer fun.  Besides, I had promised Grace that if she overcame her fears about the dentist and orthodontist, we would go.  And it was fun.  Here are some web photos I picked out to show what it looks like.  Grace had a wonderful time, and they had a beer booth, so all was good!

Brew Day

On my 2.5 days off, after humping rocks all day, I managed to make up a couple of brews.  Earlier in the week, the UPS guy had dropped off some wonderful things.  Food-grade stainless steel pepsi syrup kegs for storing my brew!

So, I made a batch of Sarsaparilla for Grace.
And afterwards I brewed and began fermenting a clone of Deschutes Twilight Summer Ale
So here we are with the extract and hops lned up against the rocks.  Far left is the fermenter.  The plastic pail to the right holds sanitizing solution, a mixing spoon, and a wort chiller.  The shiny bucket in the middle is a brew kettle on top of a burner, and that's just a propane tank to the right.  Oh yeah, and an Alaskan Summer Kolsch front and center :)
Note to self:  During the winter months, build a brew stand on rollers! 
 The Kolsch beer at the bottom will be my next brew:
Cheers everyone!

2.5 Days

After I come off night shift, I get 2.5 days off.  This also was busy!  After sleeping for the first half of the day afer getting off work at 6:00 AM, I woke up to take Grace for her first visit to an orthodontist.  The orthodontist recommended two-stage orthodontic correction. The first phase is a starts with two baby teeth extractions, followed by a 12 month palate-widening process to make room for the crowding that will be created by the emergence of much larger adult teeth. She already has crowding issues, and more adult teeth are not going to help.  Fortunately my dental insurance covered the first $1500 of that, so we just paid the remainder of Phase 1.

Afterwards we went to a movie that Grace wanted to see. We watched "Brave", which was cute. The next day Corie and I shoved stones up against the new curb, and cleaned up the soil and rocks that were dug up when we had the curb poured.

Before we went to work on it, the stones were all rolled out into the driveway and there was a long pile of dirt in front of the curb.  We spent a lot of effort removing the soil and "ankle twisters", as I call the 2-3 inch rocks, moving large stones to hide the curb, and replacing gravel.  A big job for a couple of old people!

However, now the raw edge of the curb is hidden, the gravel and the grass are separated, and I don't have to weed whack the grass from between each rock.  I just run it along the inside of the curb.  Looks pretty clean, I think.


It's July, and definitely time for a new post!  At work we had a two week outage in the first half of June.  That pretty much wiped me out, although on the days I got up early for night shift, we managed to complete the painting in the basement (except for the bathroom and doors).

On my days off after the outage, we had the main floor and upstairs painted professionally.  The ceiling was way too high for me to seriously consider messing with this job.  With a roller it would have taken weeks.  With a spray gun, it would have taken weeks to tape off.  So we had it done.  A neighbor of mine is a painter and he did it for a fraction of the going rate.  I owe him a case of beer.

Anyhow, they painted the main floor first, and so we moved as much of our stuff into the master bedroom as we could.  Then after they were gone, we moved it back.  The following day we moved all our home theater stuff and couches from the upstairs to downstairs while they painted there.  Then we moved it back.

So to a certain extent, it felt like I moved four times on my days off.  I was sore going back to work, that's for certain.

While the painters were doing their thing, I had an electrician at the house installing fluorescent lighting.  Yes, I could have done it myself.  It would have taken me way longer than it took him, and I already spent the first part of June at work.  I'd rather have family time than spend it in the attic running wires.

I had him re-do the garge lighting.  Here is the after photo.  Before it was just 3 socket fixtures, aboput where the right side of each fluorescent fixture ends.  So now I have (12) four-foot fluorescents where I used to have 3 screw-in bulbs.  It's a wonderful difference being able to see inside the garage.  The difference in lighting on the truck is due to the use of a flash on the before picture.

I also had the electrician rewire some lights in the shop that I wasn't happy with.  Again, I could have done it, but it would have meant having NO time for the things that I need to do, and other things that I enjoy.

So:  Here's the shop lighting before: (Note the orange extension-cord, exposed individual wires, and wire nuts)  Also the lights are up in the frame, so the light doesn't cast very far from each fixture.
Below is the shop lighting after.  These fixtures use a new type of bulb that has much higher light output.  The old fixtures are in the trash to the right. 

Forgive the mess. I have had no opportunity to unpack or organize the shop yet. We've had visitors for 6 of the weeks we have been here, outage for 2 weeks, and contractors the rest of the time. It's just been busy... We still need to accomplish a few other things outdoors before the snow flies. During winter I plan to install a rail on the stairway and on the loft. Oh yeah. And a shop heater!