House Painting

Good news: we got the house painted.

Best news: I didn’t have to do it.

We’ve been here seven years this year. To maintain this beautiful structure, skinned in western red cedar and cement board, it needs to be cleaned and painted every five or so years.

We called the man back who painted the house to review the state of the house and provide an estimate. The house exterior is in pretty good shape. It really needed to be cleaned though, as the clear coated cedar was showing signs of sun exposure as well as black spots from just being exposed to the air, rain and snow. The white trim was dirty. the only area that we didn’t think needed touch up were the charcoal colored sections of the house. Those looked pretty darn good.

It cost us $4,600 and took two weeks to complete the job. And it was worth every penny. The house looks brand new on the outside. And there was literally no way I would be able to have done it myself. Just the amount of time and effort required. The painters went up on the metal roof without scratching it. They knocked down all the wasp nests, cleaned out the old bird nests. They pressure washed the white porch columns. And they even stained all the decks and pressure washed the screen porch inside!

They did a fantastic job clear coating all of the cedar, it looks almost new. Overall I’m so happy and also happy I hired pros to do the work.

house painting 2019

The house was pressure washed and repainted. Here is the front porch and it looks phenomenal.

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Three Apples

I grew three apples this year.

It’s been six years since I planted our apple trees.

Late this spring I decided I’d try to prune the apple trees in hopes they would actually, you know, grow apples.  I have a dozen books on growing trees, and that included instructions on how to prune them. But for the life of me I can’t understand what I’m reading when it comes to this topic. And there is like no one who will just swing by the house and show me. Luckily we have the internet and more specifically luckily we have YouTube. This dude, James Prigioni, on YouTube has a great video that I watched. It gave me the confidence to go out and massacre my little apple tree friends. (You can watch the rest of his videos here).

I went to the store and bought a hand saw and sharpened up my clippers. I did the best I could to remove the branches crowding the center of my trees. And I trimmed off dead branches. Generally working to shape up the trees. I removed up to 30% of branches on some of the trees. I pruned a little late in spring but I did the best I could when inspiration struck me.

The fruits of my labor were three apples on two trees this year. Not much progress but one of the apples was red, which is the first time we had a red apple tree produce an apple.

red-apple-on-tree

A red apple on a tree.

green-apple-on-tree

A green apple on a tree.

I plan on pruning my trees again this fall, or in the spring. They got very large this year after I pruned them. Watching the video helped out a ton because the books just weren’t explaining it to me in a way that I could understand. I really need someone to show me.

I’m sure I’m not taking very good care of my trees in terms of fertilizer or whatnot, but it is nice seeing them grow up, and maybe I’ll get lucky next year and they’ll start magically growing fruit.

I don’t know what happened to the apples. It’s late summer and they must’ve fallen or rotted off the trees. I don’t spray the trees so maybe that’s part of the problem too. Regardless, three apples is hardly anything to get excited about yet. So I just let nature take its course.

Pruning was fun and therapeutic. I look forward to playing with my apple trees some more next year.

Too Many HDMI Cords? Fix It With This…

January?

I haven’t written since January?

Ugh, I’ve been stressed all year – work has been crazy so I haven’t had the energy to sit down and write. Which I kind of miss it. So, today I had a blank Saturday in which I could do anything I want to do, including putting off cutting the grass. Even if not a lot has been going on, there’s gotta be at least something to write about since January, right?

Alright I’ll throw some product reviews at you all, over the next few posts. And we can touch base on the mice and whatever else I can think of. I need to write.

First up, back in February I picked up a pair of these Techole HDMI splitter switches. They are about ten dollars (US) on Amazon and got decent reviews.

Techole-switch-in-box

We use our living room as our primary living space. And our family time usually includes an hour or two at night watching tv or movies together. We also play video games…I think if I added it all up there are like ten devices in the living room cabinet…let’s see: two xBoxes, two DVD players, a Nintendo Switch…cable box…anyway it’s more HDMI cables then the Sony tv (the old ~50″+ version of this tv) has ports for. So I needed a splitter to take the HDMI from the tv and feed in two devices. I think I had 5 ports so I picked up two splitters or switches.

There’s not much going on here but these are solid metal switches (like I said, I ordered two) each packaged in some nice simple brown packaging.

Obviously super easy to install, just plug in your HDMI cables and you’re good to go. I believe because the devices I plugged into the switches are powered, the switches themselves are “powered”. This allows the number on the switch to illuminate so you can tell if cable 1 or cable 2 is hooked up at any given time.

Whenever you need to access a device just press the button on the switch and tune to the right input on the tv.

I also ordered these color coded HDMI cables from Cable Matters and love them as well. Good quality and very low cost. $12-18.50 for a three pack. Color coding is a blessing with all that’s going on behind the tv.

I don’t notice any reduction in quality and the switches (and cables) have worked fine since I bought them. I’d definitely recommend trying them out to help manage things and expand your cable capacity behind your tv.

 

Added Another Smart Switch

We’re on a roll now. I drove out to Best Buy and picked up another WeMo smart light switch. Since I knew what I was doing it only took me twenty minutes to install, with no drama whatsoever (*knock on wood).

The garage light previously could only be operated from within the garage which made is useless because to turn it off you’d have to leave the house which would subject you to the elements and / or machete wielding maniacs hiding in the bushes. Now the light can be operated from anywhere in the world, day or night.

Garage Work Shop

A couple weeks ago I was at a party and my brother-in-law asked me if I had any projects going on around the house. I had to answer “no” because I haven’t had anything going on for quite a while. Work had been slow so funds were non-existent for home projects. And as you all know we’re always knocking around the idea of moving, so why bother. Well the last couple months have found me with a couple extra dollars in my pocket, and a raging desire to do something constructive. I have a mental backlog of projects I’d like to do:

  • garage organization
  • basement ceiling
  • storage room lighting and clean up
  • bar on the screen porch
  • paint the laundry room and bathroom
  • paint the trim and doors in the basement
  • finish staining the porch and sand box

Probably a lot of other little projects I can’t think of right now. I decided to start tackling the garage because it would be nice to fit two cars in there, and we just recently built that storage loft, so let’s get ‘er done, right?

I’ve started drawing up plans for a workshop in the garage, back in September of 2017.  Here:

Workshop Model 181101

The storage loft covers the entire half bay. Below that I’m going to infill with a variety of work benches and shelves made from 2×4 lumber and plywood. These will replace the existing hodge-podge of store bought metal shelves. The red thing in the rendering is my tool chest and the silver thing is a wicked cool little mini fridge that holds frosty beverages.

metal-shelves-1

This shelf has served me well for over 18 years but maybe it’s just time, you know.

I modeled up and drew plans for the secondary work bench on the far left in the rendering, and the larger “L” shaped work bench on the far right. Budget wise the cost for lumber and screws to make these two came out to about $250 total including delivery of the wood to my place.

I put 1/2″ OSB on the shelves, and 3/4″ pine plywood on the work bench countertops. The countertops are all at 36″ height from the floor. I spaced the lower shelves to accommodate my plethora of plastic tool cases I’ve collected over the years. I ran 2×4 supports from the floor to under the loft rim joist as an added measure of support for the loft above. I’ll connect these supports with “L” brackets at the top and bottom. I screwed the shelves and countertops not only to the supports but also the wall where I could. Everything seems very solid. The “L” shaped workbench does not have a center support, but I think it’ll be strong enough as is (look at the photos). I wanted that corner open and easily accessible.

It took me one day to build and install everything. I think it works and looks great. I have counter space for my bandsaw, drill press, sander and other tools. And something neat: I finally unboxed a scroll saw we bought 18 years ago at Sears which has been sitting in a box because we never had space for it. I did lose some small shelf space, but I plan on installing pegboard and smaller shelves or cozies for small items and fluid bottles.

unboxing scroll saw

I finally got to unbox the scroll saw after picking it up on sale at Sears 18 years ago!

Chirp

Chirp.

What’s that?

[a few minutes later]

Chirp.

Oh.

Chirp.

Well I hope it’s not the one in the bedroom.

Chirp.

I was in my office working last week when I heard one of the smoke detectors start chirping. Immediately I hoped it wasn’t the one in the master bedroom because that one is not a chair or stepladder away. It is well over twenty feet in the air, attached at the zenith of the 12/12 pitch vaulted ceiling.

I walked upstairs and sure enough, yep, it was the one in the master bedroom. Originally we had put a lithium battery in the detector, a battery that was supposed to last ten year. Well, we got almost six years out of this one. Not too bad and better than trying to replace it every year like you’d have to do with a regular 9V battery. Honestly I’d almost rather die of smoke inhalation than change this particular battery every year.

The biggest problem with changing the battery isn’t necessarily the height, though I hate heights and that is definitely a big problem for me personally. No, the biggest problem is I didn’t know if I had a ladder tall enough to change the battery. When we installed it we had a giant A-frame ladder that we borrowed from my brother.

Once we picked up a new battery at the store, I brought in my extension ladder. On the side it has a little label explaining that the ladder extends to 16′ and the maximum standing height is 15′. Hmmm…not sure that’s enough. I’m about six feet tall, plus I can reach a foot or two above my head. But that would mean I’m on the top rung almost. Just to confirm my suspicions I went up the ladder. Yeah, no way. I got up there and still had six feet to reach the smoke detector, and was as high up as I felt comfortable going.

Time for plan B. I exchanged the extension ladder for my other ladder, one of those Little  Giant folding ladders. Its label said it extends out to 18′. This seemed too short too, but worth a shot since it was my last shot. The ladder weighs a lot but it’s solid and with a little help from my friend we got the ladder up there. It looked promising.

As long as I didn’t look down, I felt comfortable climbing up there. And sure enough, i was able to reach the smoke detector. With a shaky hand I undid the cover and replaced the battery. Stopping just long enough to get a picture for the blog.

It all worked out well. And the chirp is mercifully gone. I think the new battery will last just as long, and now I know I have the means to replace it when it loses its charge.

Please no more chirp for a while.

Forcing the Universe’s Hand

That’s what I’m doing.

I’m calling it “forcing the universe’s hand“.

For decades I’ve planned and plodded along. Step by step, one thing after another. Playing by the book. Trying to put goodness out there hoping somehow it comes back to me ten-fold. Chasing some dream to the point that I don’t even know what I’m chasing anymore.  And all I’m finding is that this is doing nothing to make me happy, healthy or content with my life.

If I’m lucky I’m somewhere in the third quarter of my life, so there’s still time to rally and turn this thing around. I’ve burnt a lot of mental energy on things that don’t matter. That needs to change. My goal is to start pushing a lot of things out to the universe and force it to decide my path forward for me. I’m kind of over the concept of planning. I’m curating what it is that makes me happy and focusing on that.

I’m building up the courage to say “no” more often.

And working to start saying “yes” to the things that, through self reflection, are important to me from here on out. The only non-negotiable item is my children’s health and happiness, that is paramount. But beyond that…

I will aways work to leave this world better than I found it; to do good, be kind, do no harm, encourage love, oppose hate.

We overanalyze every god damn thing, for what purpose I don’t know. I’m working on not worrying about what other people think. I’m intrinsically flawed, but if I’m doing the best I can, in my heart of hearts to do good for myself (my children) and the world (all of our children), and someone has a problem with that, then that’s on them, not me.

We spend so much of our one life waiting around. Meanwhile we’re dropping dead at all ages and I just can’t reconcile in my mind that we have any time to wait for anything.

So I’m throwing out the old model.

This house and my work life the last few years are the catalyst. The house is my dream but the reality is it’s also a great burden that, like many aspects of my life, has me shackled in a glass prison where I can see out but can’t escape to the world around me. Do I hold on to the dream and try to make it work or do you move on?

I’ve been blessed, working from home has allowed me to spend the most formative years of my children’s lives at home with them. Ultimately they are the number one priority. I treasure every day I’ve been able to watch them growing up, first hand. But working for myself is also extremely stressful. I start every day not knowing if I’ll have work. Not knowing if I’ll be able to pay ANY of my bills that month. Living day to day, month to month. I’ve been fairly successful (most of the time), but the stress does wear me down. Add to that several volunteer activities and it’s a hamster wheel in front of a flame thrower.

It’s a path that leads no where.

What good is any of it if I’m stressed out about going out for pizza? What good is it if I’m so depressed I don’t want to do anything but crawl in a hole and die (or hang myself from the first floor joists in the basement storage room)?

Life has taught me, in a round about way, to focus on experiences. I wouldn’t trade any of it, and have few if any regrets. I’ve ALWAYS done it my way. I always will.

But I’m kinda worn out. Or maybe I’m just ready for a change. Something’s gotta give and I can’t just sit idle anymore. I need to start throwing some things out there. Otherwise I’m going to wither and die.


 

Now I’m actually excited for the first time in a long time. I don’t have a plan and that’s exactly the point. I’m going to start pushing some options out to the universe, cut and run from some other things, and going to let the universe dictate my path.

-C

P.S. You know, this blog has been about this house and projects but the funny thing is I haven’t had the time or money to do much with the house, thus the blog has been non-existant for the last couple years. Which is sad because I love writing but am rarely in the proper mindset to sit down and write (or work on a myriad of other projects I’d like to work on). I’m still on the fence as to close this blog down, keep it or maybe start a different blog to maintain my sanity during this next phase of my existence. Don’t know.