Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Little Hang-Up

You know those days when you can't seem to get anything accomplished, and what you do manage to accomplish gets done all wrong? Yeah. I have many days like that.

The closet had to wait. The basement was overwhelming. The tree in the yard was still there. Food didn't sound good, and I'd already had two energy drinks. It was 9am.

Inside ...
So I decided to put up door hooks. The over-the-door types don't work; I don't know if the doors are too hefty, or the frames are too tight, or the odd walling methods just throw everything off-kilter (I'm voting for this one). Whatever the reason, I had to do the screw-in types on doors not yet remodelled. It was becoming more and more necessary as summer came on, because I had nowhere to hang all my tank tops, an item fast becoming part of my work uniform out in this heat.

I put one on the back of my closet door; Dude's would have to wait since the dresser prevents him from using it yet anyway. I put one on the back of our bedroom door. I put one on Munchkin's closet wall. And then, with a great sense of accomplishment and a need to rest my arms and wrists, I wandered back to my room.
... and outside.

A voice behind me said, "Mom, what are those?"

To my dismay, I had screwed them into the narrow panel in the center of the door, and the two black screws were sticking out of the other side into the hallway.

I left them there.

Sometimes I have days like this several times a day.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Water Pump Follies

Fluids are essential to life. That's why everything out here is dead. At least when it comes to lawn and trees...
windmill/tank left, well middle, cavern in white box right

So when I last reported, we were trying to water a newly-laid lawn with mini-rounds of sprinklering. I know you were laughing at the absurdity of it all, and I'm sure you're just saying, 'I told you so,' but I admit it didn't work. I spent two days tied to the timer, moving the spinny-sprinkler from spot to spot every 20 minutes or so. And that barely watered the northeast quarter of the yard. By the time Dude got home on day two, nothing had been accomplished except sprinkling and an o'ekaki puzzle.
taking out the structure

It rained periodically for the next two days. I immediately dropped into depression, both from the lack of Vitamin D and from the sheer futility of the effort. I watched forlornly from the front door as the chickens gobbled up the seed, the ducks played in the deepening mud holes, and the cats and dogs and llamas and pony continued to walk through it all to spite me. Dude is a smart man, and instantly realized something had to be done.

rust in the ancient sprinkler pump
Maestro had given us an old jet pump he found at a garage sale, thinking it was a cheap way to get one of the other wells up and running; Dude started there, looking at options for a new well pump. The more he investigated, the less he thought a jet system looked familiar. Eventually, we discovered we were working with an ancient form of "sprinkler pump," made for small-scale irrigation and lawn systems. We found a new one, bought all the piping, and dry-fit it in the living room. Or maybe I should say, I bought it all, with Dude at a moment's call... construction is my thing, and pipe layout I get, but only the mechanic understands what the foot valve is for and whether I also need a check valve.
the yodeling mechanic

Once we knew what the system should look like, we had to make that fit into the ramshackle shack that is the well-house. Dude had to remove the upper piping that once led to the water tank on the military-trail building; we actually had to remove some of the framing to do so, if you can call the random boards and beams framing. We took out the sump pump (our years-ago temporary solution to the broken-down sprinkler system), more to clean out the space, since it's still a necessary piece of the puzzle. We disconnected the ancient sprinkler pump, filled with rust, covered in years of grease, and nearly seized. It's been probably 30 years since it was last maintained, though the foot valve was replaced about 15 years ago, and the original 10' piping was pitted and disintegrating. As we laid it in the yard, the kittens were fascinated by the trickles of water spraying from the little holes everywhere.

dry fitting the pipes
Dude loves these old machines and just can't imagine throwing one away, so he set to dismantling it. First job was to remove the long pipe. Using two large pipe wrenches, two 10-foot-plus cheater bars, and lots of elbow grease, he fielded me a series of instructions. "Stand on that end." "Put all your weight on this wrench." "I'm going to pin this under the rock, and I need you to sit on it." "Now stand on this and brace yourself on the rock." I kept picturing nasty videos on World's Worst Construction Accidents.

Eventually, though, he discovered he was turning it the wrong way, and we were able to remove it. At which point, he set about removing all of the remaining pipes. I was bored, and a little frightened by the potential damage to my or his body, so I think I overdid it on the "documentation." I'll refrain from sharing the slideshow. You can thank me later, and privately.

new pump on location
cutting the hole in the wall
On a sidenote, he took it to Red's house and was able to drill out the broken bolts, open the casing, clean it all out, and now he has another project to keep him from the Green Melon list.

Back in the well-house, we cleared out evidence of chickens, swept the floor, and began building our new water system. Pipe in the hole, attach to pump, attach outflow pipe, cut hole in wall and shove pipe through, plug it in. Nope. Hadn't even thought about how it would be connected electrically. Duh. A day later we had a new electrical cord, and yet another day later it was spliced in. After a few tests with the switches on the power pole, WE HAVE WATER!!! Massive volumes of it creating instant holes in the ground, but water nonetheless.

It's a gusher!
nearly plumbed
So tomorrow, I get the joy of setting up the sprinklers and seeding the yards. I get to water the untrenched areas of my garden. I get to scrub out the old horse trough with clean water. I may even decide to wash all the vehicles. And since we're out of sight, I may even do it all in my swimsuit. The joys of living in the boonies!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Farm Rehearsal

Empty skids
Sometimes the training we need to run this place occurs elsewhere. This time it was on my parents' farm. Maestro, my father, had been in a very unfortunate accident involving a pool filter pump to the face, and the dental surgeon banned him from serious work. The night before the surgery, he gave it one last hurrah and my sisters and our families joined him to pull the last of the hay bales off the field.

Twenty-two years ago when we moved to this farm, I was on the fast-track to an architect's career. I was happy for my folks, glad to have my own room, loving being at a distance from neighbors, but really not interested in the farm life whatsoever. I was willing to clean and cook (I can't cook!) just so I didn't have to go out in the field. Instead, my younger sisters learned to drive tractor and work in the dirt and handle and show animals.

Maestro riding the skids
This summer I learned some of the things I missed.

My folks have never been wealthy, so we learned early to do things on the cheap and with the help and advice of creative people. Maestro had taken giant planks from the dismantled playground at the school where he taught, and with a friend, fashioned it into a makeshift bale wagon. A metal bar was bolted sandwich-style around the two planks, and a chain was attached to the front and then to the ball on the truck. My sisters would stand on the planks, jump off while the truck kept going, and roll the bales to the planks, where Maestro would throw them into moving haystacks. They called it "riding the skids." It looks more like surfing on grass. As the stack was completed, it would be driven to its storage location, a spike driven between the metal bar and the stack, and the stack left behind when the truck pulled forward.
Munchkin, cousin rolling bales

Brilliant plan, when it works.

First, I learned I am too broken down to ride the skids. Jumping back on, I'd be grabbing for hay bales, Maestro, my brother-in-law... anything that was more stable than me. After a few trips around the field like this, I gave up and helped Munchkin and my niece roll the bales ahead of the truck instead.

Second, I learned that my understanding of physics does not help in deciphering why a haystack suddenly bowls over the skid riders, nor in determining how long until the widening gap between the skids will eventually prevent all bale gathering.
Moving haystack

After fighting the falling stacks, we noticed one of the skids had a lengthwise split and was no longer perpendicular to the metal bar. As we piled more bales on the skids, the bottom bale would catch on the grass and pull out from under all the others. We tried only doing half-stacks, we tried  piling a few bales in different directions, we tried bracing ourselves against the bottom bales. Nothing really worked, but we had to keep going or Maestro would lose his crop or his stitches. Knowing him, it would be the stitches.

Back to base
Red and Chevy Mama's two teenage boys showed up to help, so we created two teams. Maestro, my sister and her hubby, and the two girls took the big farm truck and the skids. The boys and I took the smaller truck for hand-loading. It was getting to be dusk, and the setting sun was creating interesting silhouettes of moving haystacks. As I watched, the truck moved closer to the landing zone, but the haystack and the people riding it didn't. I could hear the yelling out in the field, but my brother-in-law couldn't and just kept driving. Maestro looked down to see only one skid under the stack and at first, really didn't comprehend what had happened. All we could do was throw up our hands, pick up one last load in the smaller truck, and reconvene a few days later without our patriarch's assistance.

The boys and I loaded up what was left impeding the next irrigation setting, and were only 100 yards from the edge of the field when the little truck sputtered and died, fully loaded. Ultimately, Maestro had made some repairs and the gas gauge wasn't accurate anymore, so I had no idea we were out of gas. Fortunately, the boys had brought their monster vehicle, and thanks to Red the Mechanic, had just the equipment needed to yank our load off the field. We thanked them profusely with giant marshmallows over the fire pit and ice cream.

A few days later, the same sister and her hubby, and another brother-in-law joined Munchkin, Dude and I back out in the field to finish the job. It was probably the last run for the old box trailer Maestro had kept around for those little odd jobs. It only took about three trips around the field to finish the job, but we got it done without ripping out Maestro's stitches.

I had always wondered why the farming duties took five times as long as predicted. And why the equipment was always breaking down. And why farming families were always big ones. I think I get it now. And I love it.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Frightful Flooring

I hate the floor in this house.

I may have liked it sixty years ago, when it was clean and unbroken. Now, though, it's so cracked I trip over it on a daily basis. The family just nailed it down with finish nails whenever a corner popped up, so the dark red tile is dotted with little silver nail heads like a piece of cabin-style wood furniture. Most of the time, it's a dark brown color; it's only truly red when I'm mopping, and then the years of grime return to torment me. A main living area that should only take one Swiffer pad instead takes three from all the dirt and sharp edges that chew up the Swiffer itself, let alone the pads. And there are several places where the general wear of life has left the underflooring exposed, which sometimes includes whatever black paper was used as an underlayment.

The kitchen is far worse, though. Every counter or appliance edge floats above a foot-wide grease trap that sticks to shoes and anything else anyone dares to wear. Apparently no one washed the floor for decades, because it takes a lot of time to build up this kind of nasty.

...and after.
I cleaned half of this mess one day. Yes, it took me a full day... to do three counter lengths. Contrary to the instructions that say not to use with tile, I doused the floor with grill cleaner, scrubbed til my joints ached, and then sealed it with tile protectant. I then went and took a shower. Yuck.

The other side of the peninsula needs scrubbing, and the fridge and stove need to be pulled out to finish the job. Someday when the disgust over this part is past...

Friday, August 2, 2013

Closeted Changes

Munchkin painting away
Red main house color, orange for accents
In the bathroom remodel, if you'll remember, we stole half of AuntI's closet to put in a narrow counter and sink. Not that she ever really used this space for anything more than storage, but we thought we'd be nice and return some storage to her use. So we gave her half of the hall closet, which shared a wall with her room as well. It's still not done, but the potential is there.
Filled and ready for business
Shelves in

Anyway, the new hall closet is shallow, maybe 15" deep and not much wider. It's main purpose is to house all the items we can't fit into our shoebox of a bathroom. I caulked it to keep the spiders from travelling freely between rooms. Curmudgeon made us a set of shelves, stained black to match the trim color. Munchkin painted the walls and ceiling orange to match our accent walls. Then I had the sheer delight of emptying the boxes that had filled the space for months, which caused me no end of frustration when I needed something important.

I still debate whether I want a curtain over it, like the family had before, or just reorganize into more coordinated bins. Maybe over time I'll end the discussion and settle on a plan, but for now I'm just happy to have shelves in!