O-Ring

“Can you change the water filter?”

That seems like a pretty benign request.

“The water is running slow and before I run the dish washer…” she said

Hmmm…

“Okay but I just changed it like four weeks ago” Anyway, who knows what’s going on, so I decided to change it. I just got a new order of filters. No big deal.

So I went downstairs and did the drill. We have a whole house inline filter that takes out the chlorine and any bad germs out of the water before sending the water to the rest of the house. Process is you shut off the water, bleed out the little bit of pressure and water between the two valves; you bleed it into a steel bucket I have down there for this job. You unscrew the canister and dump out the old filter and the water in the canister into the bucket. Insert the new filter, screw the canister back on, close the bleed valve and open the two inline valves. Some gurgling and air pressure sounds and you’re back online.

Usually when you screw the canister back on it’s fussy, you have to kinda align the filter and catch the threads and it stops turning just as it’s tight and ready to go. This time it wasn’t too bad, not as tight as usual.

Hmmm…oh well, whatever.

I closed the bleed valve and turned the inline valves on and water starts spraying out the side.

What the heck?!

Water off. Try this again.

I tried it a few times. No change. Still water spraying out.

I look inside and there’s a black o-ring.

Hmmm….

I fiddle with the o-ring. Take it off. Try. Put it on the male part of the coupling. Try. Fiddle with it some more.

Now I’m worried.

Nothing I could do was fixing the issue.

That’s it, call a plumber. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m a carpenter, not a plumber. So I franticly go upstairs and google “emergency plumber repair”. I call the number and give my info. Of course it’s 6:30pm on a Monday. This never happens at 10am on a weekday. They say they’ll have someone contact me after 7pm.

“No water. You all are gonna have to stay at a hotel.” I proclaim to the family while waiting for the plumbing people to call me back. There’s nothing I can do and if they can’t fix it tonight it will be at least tomorrow. And this is the only water supply for the house. And that supply is off.

A little after 7pm I get a call. Thank god. The guy on the other end of the line is Randy and he didn’t seem as worried as I was.

Randy: “Is there an o-ring?”

“Yea.” I replied

“I’d hate to charge you $130 bucks just to do this. There’s a groove you have to seat the ring into in the canister top.”

“Yea, but…”

“…the o-ring seems too big?” replied Randy

Jesus, this dude is reading my mind.

“You just gotta seat it in there. Use two hands. If it’s not working you can try some vaseline. Or you can go to Home Depot and get a new ring. It’s not something we’d have on our truck anyway. Give it a try and worst case call me back if you can’t do it.”

So me, the spouse and kids all fiddle with the o-ring. Damn thing is too big. After all these years my o-ring has worn itself out maybe and is all loose and sloppy. That’s kind of depressing.

“Ok, I’m going to Home Depot.” Everyone else headed out the door to find a house with working plumbing and I headed to the store.

I went to Home Depot and the guy looked at me like I was nuts.

“I don’t think we sell anything like that” but he pointed me towards aisle 44 where they sell the “wrenches n such for that sort of thing” pointing at the large wet, blue canister in my hands. None of the water treatment systems there looked like mine. But…they did have packages of o-rings; one looked too small, the other looked too big. I’ll go with too small.

And to hedge my bets I went to Lowe’s. Same deal. Package of too small and package of too big o-rings, each with a little tube of vaseline.

I went home and took my canister, and it’s old oversized loose o-ring, and tried to fit what seemed to be the closest of my “too small” o-rings into the groove. I lubed up the new spritely o-ring.

Man….it was not working.

I had goo all over my hands and a too small o-ring slithering around the top of my canister, mocking me. Maybe if I had an extra set of hands, but everyone was off enjoying modern plumbing at someone else’s house. Hmm….

On a whim I took my old, loose o-ring and lubricated it. Not really sure why this would work I slowly used my gooey hands to place it in the track.

What the hell?!

As I circled around the o-ring that was previously an inch too wide, joyfully slid into the groove and sat there happy as a clam in brackish water.

Seriously, what the hell?!

With skepticism I marched downstairs, inserted the new filter into the canister and screwed it on. Kinda tight to be honest but with one last revolve it was aligned and seated. Saying a tiny prayer to the person upstairs (god, not some actual person…’cause, as you know, everyone left to find a house with working plumbing) I closed the bleeder and opened the inline valves.

Voila!

Seems like it worked. [knock on wood]

So far I think it worked. I’ll check on it before bed and in the morning. I have no idea why vaseline was the trick to tightening up my o-ring but I’m glad it worked. And I’m only out about ten bucks for the o-rings I apparently didn’t need, but will hold on to.

On the down side I realized my metal bucket has a leak so all the water in the bucket leaked out onto the floor.

I still have no desire to be a plumber, but I’m grateful it’s fixed, whether I had to pay someone or not. Thank you Randy, wherever you are! I owe you one. And I should have tried the vaseline first.

Breezeway Lights and Closet Cleanup

Winter is a pretty rad time to tackle all those household tasks that have been weighing on you. In between turkey dinners and pine tree flavored beers, any household can benefit from simple tasks such as updating burnt out light bulbs and cleaning out the closet, and ours did just that.

First up were the breezeway overhead can lights. Five of six bulbs had been burnt out for quite some time, so the it was a rather dim experience. I finally found a decent bulb that met my preferences. The basic GE LED outdoor PAR38 bulb I used was available at Lowe’s.  It’s warm (3000K) and rated for outdoor. When installed it has a nice flush look to it. There isn’t much else to say. After all we are simply talking light bulbs here.

 

The other project we tackled was cleaning out the master bedroom and closet. We packed up over eight bags of clothes, shoes and other items to donate or recycle. The room looks really open and refreshing now. Not such a stressful mess anymore.

After clean up I was able to install some shelves and a mirror we got from IKEA to create a little dressing area. I really like the space, even though it’s primarily for the wife to use. I just enjoy seeing the space now. The light reflects off the mirror and makes the room brighter.  I used drywall anchors, and wood screws (into one stud) to mount the shelf brackets to the wall. Here are pics:

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.

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.

Mouse Update

Over the holidays I bought a cage trap for the mice. This is better than the teeter-totter humane traps I had been using because I can actually see if there is a mouse inside which means zero false alarms.

For the last few weeks I had noticed a mouse nest near the storage room rim joist and wasn’t sure it was occupied or not. I figured it was since piece of fluff would fall down onto the storage shelf. I placed my mouse cage on that shelf, but towards the front edge. And for weeks nothing. So yesterday I reloaded it with some fresh peanut butter and put the cage along the wall where I know mice travel back and forth.

And “Yay!” this morning there was a mouse in the trap. He had eaten ALL of the peanut butter and pooped all over the inside of the trap.

It is super cold in Ohio this week and today it’s like zero degrees so as a compromise I let him go in the garage. I know there are other mice in the garage and there is no hope of evicting them from the garage so honestly it can’t hurt anymore than it already does. And I can’t bring myself to dump the tiny thing in a foot of snow on a zero degree day.

Yesterday I cleaned out one box in the storage room that had a mouse nest in it at one time. That was gross but I used sanitary wipes to wipe everything in the box off and put all the contents in a Rubbermaid bin. That is a huge step in combating these mice. Once I get the basement organized and clean out the storage room I can start to figure out where the mouse hole is and plug it up. Until then I’ll keep catching them in my handy cage trap.

mouse-in-cage

Mouse in the cage trap this morning.

mouse-trap-cage

Cage trap set up on main mouse thruway.

Summer Flowers

A few photos from a sunny summer day in the yard. Not as many cone flowers came up this year. I think they’re are being over grown by weeds. Daisies, sun flowers and black-eyed-susans are here and there.

Our day lilies finally started blooming after two years since planting them. Only three of them so far but they are beautiful.

 

 

 

Playground Stain

With Memorial Day weekend coming up, now was the time to finally clean up and stain the kids’ playground set. We’ve had the set for five years now and it was looking pretty sad.

Once again I found myself at Lowe’s, I picked up some Olypmic deck cleaner and two gallons of stain. I got Cabot semi-solid deck stain, in two colors. Mission Brown for the play set, and an Oak Brown for another project. It was buy one get one free (after rebate). About $46 per gallon. The cleaner was like $20. I picked up some brushes and mineral spirits too.

I had planned on pressure washing the set but the cleaner said that wasn’t necessary. I applied the cleaner section by section with a pump sprayer, let it sit for a few minutes and used a hand scrub brush to take the dirt, cleaner and old stain off.

Yes! The cleaner actually was taking the old stain off! Left behind was grey weathered wood in some places. In other places it looked like brand new wood. It worked awesome. I could have power washed the set at that point to remove remaining residue but honestly I was trying to do this efficiently and rinsing everything off with a hose worked well enough for me. Two notes: 1) the old stain clumps up and will create a mess and lots of residue so rinsing is critical, and 2) use the cleaner everywhere because it takes the stain off. If you leave the stain on and don’t use the cleaner certain areas, those areas won’t take the new stain as well.

The stain took to the set wonderfully. The Mission Brown was basically a match of the original color, a nice deep brown with reddish hue. One gallon was enough to almost do the entire set. I need about a quart more to finish some underside portions.

The project took about 2-3 days by myself, a few hours each of those days.

Ditch Digger

Round three of me working to preserve my gravel driveway. Last year and this winter have been rough on the driveway. A couple years ago I spread out a few tons of 411 limestone. Then last year I had Driveway Dave bring in a few tons and tamp them down where the pot holes are at. At the time Dave said I need to ditch around the perimeter, to route water under the drive. Possibly add a second pipe under the driveway. The surface water is creating and preserving the pot holes. Adding more gravel isn’t doing much.

In a perfect world I’d hire an excavating company to come out and fix the drive. Or in a slightly less perfect world I’d rent one of those kickass little baby excavators and dig my ditches using that. But here in the real world where I live month to month, I’m digging my ditches by hand. And I’ll have five tons of 411 delivered in two weeks (cost about $150-$300 delivered).

It’s really tough to gauge the fall of the land but from far away it looks like if I dig one continuous ditch along the south side it’ll route all the surface water to my one pipe, and under the driveway.

The ground is super wet due to a huge rain storm we had yesterday, so I decided to start digging and see how it would go. It went pretty good. I figured out to dig with the ditch, at one end of it, as opposed to against it or standing to the side. There’s a lot of thick grass and the ground is oversaturated so it was slow going, back breaking work. But the water is flowing along the ditch so that’s encouraging.

Ultimately my goal is to have a nice two track driveway devoid of potholes. We’ll see how well my ditches work once I finish them and it rains again. Maybe I finally found my calling in life.

Hall Lamp LED Bulbs

We have two small lamps upstairs on the Mexican hutch, and the CFL bulb in one of the lamps started to die out, so I was instructed to fix this. I went to Home Depot and picked up a pair of Philips 40W equivalent light bulbs.

Performance wise they use 5.5 watts (vs. 10 watts for the CFL’s they replace), 40 watt equivalent, 2700K (warm) color, 450 lumens. (Note the link on the HD website says 7 watts but the packaging on mine says they only use 5.5 watts.) They look nice with a clear injection molded “sparkle” diffuser that makes them twinkle a bit behind the lamp shade. Home Depot had some ceiling fan bulbs that were similar but with a frosted bulb. I wasn’t sure, so I just went with these clear guys. Likely the ceiling fan bulbs would have been fine too. Philips is my “go to” brand for LED’s generally speaking. Though it seems like Home Depot is dialing back their Philips offering; I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come.

At any rate, the decorative lamps in the hallway now have new energy efficient bulbs. I’ll recycle the used CFL’s at our county’s hazardous household waste collection site in the next week or two. Reminder, you need to recycle CFL’s properly because they contain mercury. Don’t break them!

 

 

Birds Are Weird

Kid: “Whatcha doin’ dad?”

Me: “Living the dream kiddo.”

Wife: “C’mon boys, dad’s playing with his birds.”


I walked out the front door on to the front porch this morning to take the trash out when I heard strange noise. Actually it’s the third time I’d heard the noise in the last three days. My first guess was it was some sort of rodent scurrying around, but not sure where. As I crossed the length of the porch I heard it again, it sounded like the gutter.

Was there a mouse in the gutter?

As I stepped onto the drive I heard a lot of chatter. Definitely the gutter. The garage gutter actually, not the porch gutter. That’s weird, I thought to myself. Whatever it was was in the gutter. And it was running back and forth, my eyes following the sounds. Two things in the gutter. Mice not mouse? Rats?

Would you look at those twigs sticking out from the gutter seam. Birds? Why would birds build a nest in a downspout? How did they get in there in the first place? So many thoughts went through my head in such a short period of time. Then I could hear them running to the far end of the gutter, and I figured they must know what they are doing. Sure enough two birds, pretty big ones actually, emerged from the gutter about three quarters of the way down, and flew off. On the plus side they showed me where the hole was, just as I suspected during their scurry along the gutter.

Well that’s no good. Our gutters are a closed system that leads to our water supply, so knowingly having animals inside the system going through the circle of life is not a viable option for this guy’s water quality.

So of course I spent an hour of my Wednesday morning taking the gutter apart to extract the nest, which fortunately was devoid of eggs. Carefully I stuck rags in the openings so my bird friends couldn’t sneak back in during my play time.

I then went and fixed two bird size holes in the system where the debris shield had flopped down. The shield friction-fits up into the roll over on the outside of the gutter. When the ice guards failed a couple years ago they not only damaged the gutters but also the shields, creating those gaps, unbeknownst to me. One gap was above the nest and another was about 20′ away.

Why, how, birds decided a downspout was a good spot to raise a family I’ll never understand. It certainly is an easy spot to defend. But wouldn’t the rain was it out, and clog my water system? In fact this afternoon we had a brief downpour of rain that surely would have wreaked havoc on the nest and any birds inside there.

Well regardless of why, the problem is fixed. I can only hope the rest of the birds stick to the free open accommodations we have on top of the dozen or so porch columns we have provided around the exterior of the house.

I tell you, there’s never a dull moment around here. Can’t wait to see what mother nature has up her sleeve for tomorrow.