DIY


tob

Lately (and to the point of ad nauseum in my less-than-humble opinion) there’s been a trend fadding or a fad trending called the ALS Bucket Challenge, nobly started to raise money for research into Lou Gehrig’s Disease, but now everybody’s seemingly dumping buckets of iced water over their heads and challenging everybody else to do the same.

My particular bucket challenge isn’t something I’d demand anyone else do nor does it waste a drop of water. As alluded to in my previous post I got busy yesterday afternoon transferring the above-pictured big ol’ pallet of brick slices from my parking space in the garage up 17 steps and around to the side yard using two of the pictured buckets.

To be specific, a bucket holds 20 pieces weighing 44.6 pounds (yes, I weighed one). On Facebook yesterday I submitted the above picture and opened up the guessing as to how many buckets it might take. Here’s the comment thread that resulted:

bc

Roughly three hours later, the transfer was completed involving a total of 52.5 buckets (kudos to Steven Frein for his guess of 50 buckets).

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Here’s where they ended up neatly stacked in the sideyard:

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And whilst enjoying a cold beer afterward, I did the math and can now use the term “ton o’ bricks” quite literally: 52.5 buckets at 44.6 pounds per bucket equals a total weight of 2,341.5 pounds, that I loaded, carried up 17 steps, and unloaded. The total number of half-bricks was 1,050.

If my back and the rest of me weren’t so totally freakin’ exhausted I’d be feeling pretty badass right about now.

In the 12-plus years I’ve been a-blogging, I don’t think I’ve ever gone more than a week or two without posting SOMETHING. So you can imagine my shock when I saw I’d last been seen here basically more than three weeks ago.

The funny thing is, I’ve still been communicating, but mostly on Facebook, which for reasons known only to Mark Zuckerberg has been able to squirrel its way in to becoming something of my defacto mode of e-communication. I don’t even tweet much anymore.

But enough about that. Without any further preambling, here’s some of the stuff I’ve been doing of late:

1) Kayaking The Los Angeles River

As part of a pilot program this summer, a section of the long-lost Los Angeles River coursing through Elysian Valley was reopened to the public for use as a recreational resource, an opportunity angelenos have not had since the 1930s when the river’s channelization was begun to prevent flooding.

As a boy I accidentally discovered the river, and from that single experience I have never stopped being enamored with and zealously protective of what so many others have dismissed as our city’s woeful waterway — little more than a drainage ditch to the sea. Though I’ve been aware of its potential, I never imagined that one day I’d see such a sea change in perception so that  the river would made accessible and embraced not as a prohibited place but as public parkland to be explored and experienced and as something to connect with after so long a disconnect.

kayakroute

So for me, thanks to L.A. River Expeditions (Facebook), to be among the first wave during this historic first season and doing what you see in these clips at the top and after the jump: putting a kayak into its waters and putting my butt into that kayak and paddling — however awkwardly — downstream for a water-level perspective of my beloved river, it’s not a dream come true. Because I never dared to dream this could ever happen. Not in my lifetime.

No, it’s much more than that. To me it’s nothing short of a glorious miracle. And for that I’m thankful to everyone who has fought so tirelessly and valiantly over the years to get the city’s much-maligned and misbegotten river recreated in enough influential minds so that it can now be leisurely recreated upon.

Physically and soulfully these waters were very moving.

2) Unrocking The parkway in front of our house

I can’t remember if it was four or five years ago, but it all began when our next door neighbor contacted me to tell me he was redoing the section of parkway in front of his house with river rocks, and would I be interested in going in for half of the cost and doing mine as well to give the two parkways some continuity.

I figured why not. It would look better than the dirt and dead grass that had been there and it would be an opportunity to do something positive with the guy with whom, frankly, I’m not on the best of terms.

So a few weeks later he shows up with a metric ton of the palm-sized rocks and we pour them out, and the continuity lasted for all of as long as it took for the grasses and weeds to grow from between our rocks. See, he keeps his section of the parkway completely sterile, using gardeners he’s instructed to pluck pretty much even the slightest growth of green. Me? I’m my own gardener and I instructed myself not to give a hoot about what grows.

The only thing I’d been meticulous about is putting the rocks back that people for some stupid reason can’t resist kicking or tossing all over the place: the gutter, the street, the sidewalk, our front steps. And yes, I’ve even confronted people I’ve witnessed taking the rocks – literally picking up several and walking off as if there’s a “Free Rocks — All You Can Carry!” sign posted.

Fast forward to this week, and I’m finally done with these rocks. Agreeing to partner this design option for our parkways did nothing to improve things with the neighbor, and so I decided that it’s time to reclaim or refresh our decidedly seedy section of the parkway and remove the river rocks.

I started yesterday (August 12), and quickly discovered that it was something easier said than done. What I thought would take a couple hours of clearing the roughly 40′ x 4′ area, is going to take about eight or more… mostly because over the ensuing rainy seasons, what started as one layer of rocks on the surface of the soil is now in places two or three layers of rocks that have been buried by the flow of water and soil, hastened by those people who’ve tromped on them and pushed them deeper. It’s really quite remarkable how low some of these rocks have gone.

I found out during the first four/five foot long section I cleared from the driveway apron to the magnolia tree, which also involved digging up all the dead patches of grass. And there are a LOT of dead patches of grass.

Soooo, what you’re seeing here in this timelapse is roughly 45 minutes of me attacking with little more than a spade and begloved hands the second four/five foot section between the magnolia tree and the brick walkway. Ended up filling the bucket three times. That’s a lotta rocks. And I’ll do it again tomorrow. And the day after. Until it’s done.

Not sure yet what I plan to do once it’s all cleared. I may just leave it bare. I may plant something. Or I may supersaturate the soil and set the rocks back into the wet dirt side by side like so many tiles. At least that way if some idiot wants to take one or toss one  it’ll require a little more effort than just bending over and getting grabby.

Menial labor? Meaningful labor? Bit of both from where I’m toiling.

Back last September, I was apparently the only one in the world who DIDN’T know of the existence of resistance bands and how they can aid those such as myself who are pull-up challenged (meaning with my long-ass arms, weak upperbody strength and my 200-plus pound bulk I could barely do one).

Since then, I’ve made some progress, but not much. I’ve gotten pretty good at doing assisted pull-ups but if I’m lucky I’m only able to do two without the bands (and the second one isn’t pretty).

So now I’ve turned it up a notch. Instead of occasionally cranking out one, two or three sets of 10, I’ve raised the bar so to speak and now do 10 sets daily of what’s shown in this clip: 10 pull-ups with the last one followed by a 10-second hold at the top. Then two more and a five-second hold. Basically I do this once every hour from the time I get up until I have to leave in the afternoon. With this extra dedication, determination and effort (which will eventually be doubled to twice an hour) I’m looking forward to finally weaning myself off the resistance band and getting to the point where I can count off five of the suckers completely on my own.

Equipment used:
Iron Gym
Workoutz Heavy Duty Resistance Band

You might remember last September when I wrote about visiting the garden of Bamboo Charlie (nee Charles Ray Walker) after I learned of his sudden demise. If not, you can read and see about it here.

Bamboo Charlie was homeless by choice and a beloved fixture in that area near the Boyle Heights Sears, carving out a quirky paradise on a slice of land near the east bank of the LA River. After I learned about him when his story made the LA Times, I failed to go see him when he was alive and so was heartbroken to only be able to visit his place after he was gone. It was a magical place.

One of the things I did when Susan and I visited was take a mature chili pepper from one of the many plants he had cultivated and put it in my pocket. When I got home, I harvested the seeds and planted them.

They sprouted and grew pretty quickly and even blossomed when pretty much everything else around the house was battening down for winter, but I wasn’t sure if the bees had pollinated any of the plant’s flowers. I should never doubt bees getting the job done because when taking out the trash yesterday, I glanced its way and was surprised to find two peppers have begun growing from where blooms had been, like so:

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It’s a small tribute, but I’m happy to see Charlie’s legacy live on. Heretofore they are called The Red Hot Charlie Peppers.

You don’t remember that thing I wrote about DIY’ing a loooong-leaking hose faucet last January, do you? Of course you don’t. Imention it because after being proving myself to be so slow to put off what in essence turned out to be such an easy and water- and money-saving fix, one would think that if any other H2O-No! pops up around our 106-year-old domecile, my conservational self would hippity hop to getting it repaired, yes?

Not so much.

Case in point: the fill valve inside the toilet in the bathroom off the study. It literally has been running for about nine months. Not pouring, mind you. In fact, the flow was slight enough as to be almost imperceptible. But it was continuous nonetheless — 24/7/365. And I’ve been aware of it aaaaall thiiiiiiis time.

Suffice it to say it was ever on my to-do list, but always getting bumped to the bottom.

Not that I did nada. As best I figured it, the valve was not shutting completely after flushing. As the water would refill in the tank, it would almost-but-nooooooot-quiiiite close off. So hell yeah: I tinkered with it on a whole bunch of occasions — twisting a screw there, repositioning the floatball here… I even went so far as to buy a replacement assembly at the local hardware store about six months ago. But it was 15 inches tall, whereas the tank won’t accommodate anything more than a foot high.

So the fill valve went on incessantly overfilling. Draining water with juuuuuuust-so-slight a ssssssssssssssss and the occasional very quiet “gloip” noise that sounded as if the world’s smallest cottonmouth snake with a burping problem was living in there.

But of course, I wouldn’t be writing about this if there wasn’t a happy ending, right?

Riiiiiiight.

It came in the form of the Fluidmaster 400LS Fill Valve With Leak Sentry Technology, that I found in the back end of my closest Home Depot yesterday. Ten bucks.

Not only reasonably priced, but miracle of miracles, I dropped it in and it went to work without me having to do the slighest bit of adjusting.

And that makes me nervous. So whenever I’m at my desk I keep an ear toward the bathroom, to hear if the tiny burping snake has snuck back.

Sssssssso far, sssssssssso good.

 

Yesterday I followed rules 1 and 3 of the Fixer’s Manifesto and repaired our patio table umbrella, of all things. After almost eight years of exposure,  a foot-long section of the bottom part of the wooden pole, just above where it sits in the stand snapped clean through.

I figured this out yesterday morning after noticing the umbrella was listing to port exceptionally hard.

My first thought was just to remove the broken section and reseat the remaining pole in the stand, but that would have left the umbrella at basically my neck level, which would force me basically to either duck/cover and or limbo down first if I wanted to sit at the table beneath it. Doable, but inconveeeeeenient.

So my second thought was to write the entire umbrella’s obit, but then I was all: “Dang, new patio umbrellas run like upwards of a hunnert bucks!”

Realizing that spending money unnecessarily was stinkin’ thinkin’ I got busy working the solution instead of the problem. See, the pole is a top and bottom section joined in the middle by a metal sleeve, so I pulled the umbrella up and away from the table and undid the sleeve. At first I figured I’d just hunt around the house for a suitably sized dowel (or go buy one at the hardware store), saw it to an equal length and use that as a replacement for the bottom part of the pole. But that wasn’t going to work out because the part of the broken section that goes into the sleeve was threaded and I am inconveniently without the skills or machinery required to thread a piece of round wood.

So I started to write the umbrella’s obit again, but then I stopped abruptly because I remembered something. Wouldn’t you know there was this hollow metal pole that for years and years has been sitting under the steps on the south side of the house. I can’t recall where it came from or what its purpose is/was, or why I kept it all this time, but there it was.

And wouldn’t you know it was literally the same diameter as the pole. Sat perfectly in the stand. Problem was though, the diameter of the hollowed inside part of the pole was about a third-inch smaller than its wooden counterpart, which required me to get a rather large buck knife and risk amputating some finger bits while I whittled the end of the top part of the pole (the one with the umbrella attached) until the two pieces fit together pretty much perfectamundoly (as seen at right).

As you can see below, the umbrella now sits waaaay high above the tabletop, the result of the metal pole being about a foot too long (and me without the machinery too cut it down to a better size). I suppose I could saw the length off the top part and rewhittle, but for now having too much room to get beneath it is a far, far better thing than not having enough, not having it at all — or spending upwards of a hunnert bucks for a new one.

 

There’s actually a couple other gourds out in the backyard still growing — one barely a pound in weight and the other probably about six or seven (and shaped awesome/ominously like a skull) — but they’re still mostly green and probably still will be by Halloween so I left them alone to continue to do their thing, and instead harvested the three that have orange’d up the most:

The most consistent thing is that we went five for five. We planted five seeds back on July 4 and each one ultimately produced one pumpkin — along with an hellacious amount of flowering vines. The least consistent thing was their size. I’m not knocking that… hell, I’m thrilled that we got something for our trouble. It’s just curious the differences.

Above (click it for the bigger picture), from the left: 3 pounds 11.25 ounces, 11 pounds even, and 1 pound 10.75 ounces

Special note: We call the smallest one on the right our “special needs” pumpkin because she leans over no matter which way you set her down (a product of growing up somewhat strangled between competing vines from the other two pumpkins.

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