News From the Department of DIY

It took longer than I’d expected to break out of my lazy cage this Saturday. That morning I had grand handyman plans to tackle several indoor projects and one outdoor one, but literally didn’t/couldn’t get going on them until way late that afternoon, when Susan and I piled into the Ford Escape and made a sunset run to the Hollywood Home Depot for:

  1. A new sink faucet for the guest bedroom’s long-leaking (and shut off) bathroom
  2. A new floatball assembly for the guest bedroom’s long-running (and shut off) toilet
  3. A couple planter boxes for a unique place along the south side of the house

I hadn’t been a total stick in the mud, having managed to muster the energy enough to fix the first-floor toilet off the landing room. Looong has it always run after being flushed and to stop it required either a lot of jiggling and/or the eventual lifting off of the tank cover to free the flap from its stalemate position against the floatball it inevitably collided with so that it could drop to the bottom of he tank and seal off the water’s escape. In the past I’d attempted simple to adjust the angle of the floatball arm, but it’s never worked. This time? the solution was to twist the tower the rising floatball arm attaches to juuuuust far enough for it to be clear of the descending flap. Why hadn’t I done that sooner? Because I over-complicated it in my mind to be anything that simple. I’m reeeeeeally good at doing that.

But it turns out laziness can sometimes happen for a good reason because had I enthusiastically hit the do-it-yourself palace any earlier, Susan and I would have missed out on serendipitously bumping into one of my favorite artists on our way home.

When we did get home Susan set to making dinner and I adjourned upstairs to the guest bathroom where I was able to quickly and successfully install the fixture and the float, returning that bathroom to a full functionality not seen in three years.

In fact, with the repair made to the downstairs toilet, for the first time in perhaps four years or more all four of our baths are entirely in working order. Yeah, I rock.

As to the third item on my list… well, I got to work on that after we got home from the Sunday matinee of  the much-anticipated and entirely entertaining “Super 8.” And here’s how the suspended would-be planter box gardens of basil and cilantro and sunflowers looks at present:

June gloom aside, the south of the house gets the most direct sun of any side, and I figured the best way to take advantage of all that rayliciousness would be to install a couple planter boxes along the handrail at the top of the steps leading to our side door. As an added-value, if the basil and cilantro and sunflower seeds grow as hoped, the greenery will be nice scenery — a nice organic, home-grown and tasty focal point addition to admire when coming down the stairs from the bedroom and looking out the side door’s window.

Of course there will be photographic updates of any growth that occurs.



What May Very Well Be The Best Valentine’s Gift Ever

Yeah, that’s right. I’m talking about the cooler above. Just hear me out.

You see, our megatastic top-of-the-line, barely-two-month-old Samsung fridge fully crapped out on Sunday. Up and died. It doesn’t refrigerate. It doesn’t freeze. It doesn’t make ice, but it sure melts it good. Yep, this state-of-the-art appliance is now just a state-of-the-art piece of shit that just sits there doing nothing.

In addition to Susan being righteously pissed at such a revolting development, she expressed concern about all the food inside the appliance going bad. A valid concern as we’re one of those few those sad households who don’t just happen to have a spare fridge we can pull out of our back pockets and use while we wait the one — maybe two! — business days until a Samsung-authorized repair service can call us to make an appointment. Grrrrrrrrr. And then gawd knows how much longer until the appointment or appointments required to make the repair — assuming repairs can be made!

Cue the stream of invective.

So in that deathless cuss-laden interim, all the meats and cheeses and such that were in the respective refrigerated and freezer sections of the now-deceased hunk of muzzafuzzin’ junk is at good risk of spoiling. But! While we don’t have a back-up fridge to fall back on, I realized that we do have a spare monster camping cooler, which I dutifully brought it up from the basement.

Now the cooler itself is not the Valentine’s Day gift. More specifically it’s the combination of the cooler and the 60-pounds of ice that I went and bought and put into the cooler, followed by most of the stuff from our perished fridge so that we might be able to not have to throw any of the perishables out.

I know what you’re thinking: GENIUS!

I’m betting Susan’s going to get home from work tonight and go from grumbly to less grumbly and probably punch me in the arm for being so solutions-oriented — and trust me, a punch in the arm from my Bay-Bee is high praise.

But lest you go thinking that I consider a cooler full of ice to be the height of romance, she’s also gonna find these waiting for her.

Down The Drain

For as conscientious and proactive about the environment and resource conservation as I like to think I am there are things that happen that just make me scratch my head at what a lazy dummy I can be. Case in point: this spigot, which in the picture below you’re seeing in its deaththroes as a leaker — something it’s been for a looooong time.

I’m embarrassed to say how long. A couple years– that I’ve known about it, and goodness knows how much further back beyond that.

How bad a leaker? Bad, but don’t judge by that picture, it wasn’t that bad. What you’re seeing there is drainage with the valve fully out after I’d shut the water off to the entire house.

In actuality, though it was still reprehensible. How much so  I discovered two weeks ago when I finally began to sort of think about maybe getting around to some day doing something about fixing it. I placed the business end of the hose that’s normally attached to the spigot at the mouth of a five-gallon water bottle beneath it. While I can’t pinpoint the exact rate of flow, I can tell you that less than 45 minutes later the vessel was almost a third full. When I checked again some three hours later that morning, the bottle was full. And leaking out, of course.

So you figure we were pouring out about 1.5 gallons of water every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year for the past two years, minimum: 1.5 gallons x 24 hours x 365 days x 2 years = 26,280 gallons.

Stupified by such procrastitorial lunacy, four days later (or should I say 144 more gallons) I went to our local hardware store, and bought a replacement spigot (they call them “bibs”) figuring I would wrench the old one off the pipe and with some sealant wrench the new one on. Yeah, fat chance. Because what I found out when I got home was that the old spigot featured a coupler/sleeve thing welded to the water pipe.

Visions of plumbers danced in my head.

But wait, I thought. Maybe I could replace the washer? That seemed like a good idea until I stripped the head of the  screw holding the worn out gasket. Then wait again, I thought. Maybe I can just replace the entire old valve system with a new one?

This past Sunday (that’s right, another 288 gallons later), I went back to Baller’s with that plan and the worker just chuckled. They don’t sell just the guts of a hose bib. You gotta buy the whole thing. I told him I’d bought one of those already (and that I’d tried unsuccessfully to loosen and unscrew the guts out of that one) but the water pipe size is smaller than the bib size.

“Oh so you need to cut off the old bib at the water pipe, get a coupler and weld that on,” he counseled. Which would be great if I had a welding device and some sort of welding experience.

Visions of plumbers danced in my head again.

“You could always just replace the washer” he said, and I shook my head as he took the valve and attempted unsuccessfully to remove the ruined gasket screw. “Or maybe not,” he said handing it back. Then it dawned on me and I asked if he had any screws the same size handy. He did and I came away from there with a 74-cent rubber gasket and a 29-cent screw.

And once home I pecked and pulled at the rotten old washer until it crumbled from around the stripped screw, then I used a pair of pliers to grip it and got it loose and out. Then I put the new gasket on with the new screw, and reinstalled the bib guts into the bib. Then I turned the water shutoff back to on and damn if the sucker’s been dry this last 36 hours (or 54 gallons).

I still feel like a fool for waiting so long, but at least now I’m a proud fool.

I’m So Proud Of Our Garage I Thought I’d Take A Picture Of It

(click for the bigger picture)

Though our house was built in 1906, the garage that you see above wasn’t added until 1916. Not that the original owners didn’t have cars prior to that, it’s just that up until then I’d guess the north side of the house was probably a driveway that climbed up from the curb, and any vehicles were parked on it or in the rear. The latter is true because occasionally the backyard gives up a remnant of a jalopy… a fragment of a license plate or mystery piece of metal.

I love our garage, not only because of its sheer unreinforced river-rock walls (the back one essentially a retaining wall holding back about 10 feet of hillside), but because the builders had the sense and decency to install some nice split-level concrete work, thereby eliminating the  downward slope of the street.

I can only imagine the variety of cars that sat on that cement over all those years, but I can bet once you got into the 1950s, there wasn’t much in the way of  land yachts resting here, at least none whose nose or ass didn’t block a bit of the sidewalk.  The dimensions were plenty big enough for cars of the early 1900s,  but bigger wasn’t better if you wanted to secure your chariot behind a closed garage door. In fact, our test drive of the Ford Escape  we bought this past summer consisted of us driving one home and making sure it would fit. Obviously, it did.

I also love our garage because there’s strictly no room for clutter. One look at our basement contradicts the organized neatness of this space, and that’s simply because we can’t afford to waste any of it and put two vehicles  in there.

As much as I profess my adoration, I’d demolish it in a second if I won the lottery — and I’d need to win the lottery do do what I’d want with it. I’d widen it a few feet to the south, and rebuild the walls to code (cha-ching!), facing them with the salvaged river rock. Then on top of it I’d build a second-floor studio space, entirely in the craftsman style of the house, of course. Plumbing electricity, the works. It would be awesome. But for now and maybe for as long as I park in it, it’s awesome as is.

We Was Framed!

When you last saw our beloved 1954/55 O’Keefe & Merritt Model 535-2 With Grillevator and Hi-Vue oven periscope, she was enjoying a new oven safety valve and functionality to all her burners, but was short a couple cosmetic elements in the form of the frames around the Grillevator vent and periscope window and that left her looking a little less awesome.

She was missing those parts because they were both in a sad state of disrepair and we entrusted them with the fine folks at Antique Stove Heaven who left with them to work their restoration magique.

Well, today the repairman returned and installed them, bringing her back panel to a gleaming level not seen since she rolled off the assembly line so long ago (click for the bigger picture).

I came thiiiiis close to ordering a rechromed “griddle in the middle” but decided to give it some thought first.

Prison Break

In the small bathroom off our second bedroom, is a window. It’s about, I dunno… maybe a foot, foot-and-a-half wide; two, three feet tall. It opens outward, so the screen’s on the inside.

At some point in the 104-year-old house’s history when the sketchiness of the neighborhood may have been the factor that led to the decision to bar all the windows on the first floor it was decided to bar this second floor window, too. This, despite its small size and inaccessible position about 15 feet up the south side of the house making it rank most likely last on a burglar’s list of entry options, probably below axing a hole in a wall.

My theory is that there was a tenant there with a child and it wasn’t done so much to keep criminals from coming in as it was to keep a kid or kids from falling out. But it’s just a theory, an attempt to explain such an inanity.

But regardless of the reason barred like a prison it was and barred like a prison it’s been, until this morning when the bars removal became one more item I was able to check off my never-ending To Do list:

Here’s the before and after:

I hate bars. The only ones that remain are the three that hang off the louvre windows on the first floor because, well… they’re louvre windows which we’ll one day replace and then those bars will be gone too.

And yeah, I took that silly sliding latch on the bottom off too. Totally unnecessary.

The Great Backyard Grassacre Of 2010

If we haven’t reached (or maybe passed) the second anniversary of  the firing of our gardeners then it’s probably fast approaching. We shitcanned them after I caught them violating our adamant ban of gas-powered leaf blowers — whose residential use is against civic ordinance anyway, but it’s a mostly unenforceable statute most every corner-cutting sumbitch and the property owners who employ them loves to break.

Except us. But apparently Susan and I are in the city-wide minority who operate upon a “do unto your neighbors as you would have them do unto you” platform.

So for the past couple years in this troubled economy, give or take a couple months, we’ve saved the $80 a month spent on a scofflaw crew, and instead I have been the Chief Landscape Administrator armed with an electric weed whacker and hedger — along with a collection of rakes, shovels and brooms. Plus there’s the tiller I got at Susan’s request three Christmases ago, and the old-school push mower she got me at my urging two seasons’ past.

I’m pretty dependable in the execution of my duties but I must confess I’ve been derelict in denuding the backyard of its wild grasses and weeds, which have grown pretty rampant thanks to the abundance of recent rains.

Long story short: I made up for lost time and busted out the Homelite whacker. Plugging it in to the business end of a 75-foot extension cord I engaged the hostile growth indiscriminately to victory. And while I can’t claim that I beat back every blade of grass out there,  I’m proud to say that a couple hours later I’d whipped the place into far better shape than its been in a while.

Such is my exciting weekend.