Thursday, September 3, 2020

Front Yard part one

We've received a lot of feedback on our garden tool shed - most of it wondering about when the tools were going to be put to use. Well wonder no longer! 

In February 2019 we built our first two raised beds at the top of our side yard, and approximately eighteen months later we're ready to go back to work on this area - we have plans for another raised bed, a set of stairs between the beds and the gate, and a low retaining wall at the front of this area. 

A couple of weeks ago we picked up a bunch of 4" x 6" PT lumber, the same stuff we used for the base of the tool shed, and set to work on the stairs. Amy Sheep wanted to dig out for the stairs with a spade, but that idea only lasted a couple of shovelfuls...


....before we broke out the jackhammer and fitted the spade attachment - this process works best with one person manning the jackhammer and a second shovelling the loose dirt into a wheelbarrow. This is the situation after about half an hour of excavating and a quick mock up of how the risers will look:


The risers were cut from  4" x 6" PT, and I bored three (3) 1/2 inch diameter holes in each riser.


We bought a bunch of 1/2 inch rebar, which I cut into two foot pieces with the screaming wheel of death - it is much cheaper to do this than to buy the rebar in shorter lengths.


Each riser was installed on top of a level bed of road base, and pinned with three pieces of rebar - whacking the rebar into the ground was the toughest part of the project.


By the end of day one we had five risers installed at the side of the raised beds.


It was a couple of weeks before we got another chance to work on the project. We started out by digging out space to install the side pieces of the stairs - this was done with a combination of the jackhammer, the shovel and the wheelbarrow.


This is the look after the first side piece was installed:


Doing the digging was hard work because it was supper hot at the time, as this photo sort-of shows:


We installed the side pieces with a 2 foot rebar stake at the upper end.....


...and a pair of six inch screws at the other end which are driven into the perpendicular riser. The next side piece goes on top of the previous section which obscures the rebar stake:


It is not obvious in these photos, but the side sections are also installed on top of leveled road base.


As we worked further up the stairs the dirt gave way to rock - fortunately it was no match for the jackhammer, but it did make hammering in the rebar very difficult.


We're going to be modifying the two original raised beds as part of this project - they need to be a little bit more "raised" and we need to improve the structure and the drainage. We started off by removing the front of the upper bed:


We then dug back the dirt back about six inches from the front of the bed, and six inches below, and then re-installed the lowest board onto two new corner posts - the posts are six inches longer than they were originally.


After also replacing the two central posts, we filled the trough below the lower board and the area behind it with crushed stone:


The remaining boards were then re-installed and backfilled with dirt, one at a time.


When this was done then bed looks the same except for the new posts which protrude enough for one more board to be installed. At present there is a state-wide shortage of lumber in California because the saw the mills have lost a lot of production time to the pandemic. We may have to wait a while before we can get hold of the twelve foot lengths of lumber we need.


This is the big picture after two more-or-less full days of work on this area:


We'll be building a low-ish retaining wall at the top of this area in the near future.


The third raised bed will be going in the space where this year's pumpkin crop is located.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Bikes an' Guitars

If you saw the Escape from Lockdown movie, or failing that, if you read the news anywhere in the world right now, you'll be aware that everyone is, to quote my Grandfather, "out ont' bikes."

You might not realize it, but Sam has only recently started biking - it's something like four months at the time of writing since Amy Sheep decided he had to learn. After getting as far as he could on Quinn's old boneshaker, I had to do my bit, and get him his own machine.

Just getting hold of a new bike is a challenge; luckily for Sam we called a few places before we headed out and he ended up with a very smart TREK hybrid - it even has disc brakes, for Cliff's sake!

Very smart

While we were walking from the car to the bike shop, I asked Sam if he was excited. Turns out he was. I described to Sam how I felt the day my Dad took me to buy my first proper guitar. Not the first guitar I ever owned, but the first professional quality instrument I came by - what became known as the "Blue Strat."  It was quite a memorable day for several reasons, but first a little bit of back story:

As I said, the Blue Strat wasn't my first guitar - that was my Dad's Levin. The photo a bit further down is how this guitar looks today; the spruce top has darkened, but otherwise it looks very similar to the day it was purchased for 62 quid from Kitchens Music Store in Queen Victoria Street, Leeds in around 1962; to put that in context a Fender Stratocaster was 159 guineas at the time.



When I first got my hands on this guitar it was fitted with a bulky pickup which was mounted at the soundhole below the neck and connected to a cumbersome push-button control switch and jack socket located below the bridge. It meant you could plug the guitar into my Dad's 15 watt Selmer valve amp....when no-one else was around that is....but the pickup was never professionally installed, and it rattled a lot. Some time in about 1985 we took it off and filled the holes in the bridge with beeswax.


The Levin was a pretty decent guitar, as a beginner I was very lucky to have access to it. I took it on holiday to the Lake District once. It had an ebony fingerboard, but it also had a very high action and playing barre chords high up the neck was difficult. And it had another serious drawback: without the pickup it couldn't be plugged into an amp.

Both these issues were solved in 1987 when I somehow managed to scrape together 78.50 of ye olde english pound notes, which I took down to RockBottom in Croydon and exchanged for the white Marlin Slammer. This guitar looked like a strat, and was available in either red of white, both of which came with a white scratch plate. I didn't want to look like Hank Marvin, so I got the white one, and that's the only thing I can remember about buying this guitar.


The Marlin was a bit of a plank, well actually it was a TOTAL plank, but I didn't realise that at the time. It really did help me get better on the guitar - the action was much lower and because I mostly played it without a amp, negative feedback from the family was reduced considerably. I played this guitar a lot, and I mean a LOT. After about a year my Dad told me I was due for a proper instrument, so I sold the Marlin to a mate for about half of what I paid for it. The next thing I heard, it was falling to bits...!

And so on to the Blue Strat. This guitar was also purchased from RockBottom in Croydon in 1988. It was (probably) a dull Croydon day when we parked the car. As we were exiting the parking garage Dad informed me that we had to make a quick detour on our way to RockBottom. What? A detour? I wasn't planning on this...

It turned out we had to swing by the department store first, so that my father could return several "items of clothing" that my Mom had previously picked up in error. Or something like that. Personally, I couldn't see the urgency. I was as excited as hell to get my hands on my new Fender, and wanted to get that part of the mission accomplished first. Having voiced this opinion I was informed that Dad had no attention of setting foot inside RockBottom while carrying a "bag full of bras."

So we trundled over to Marks and Spencer's in North End and joined the returns queue in the ladies underwear department. As you do. Eventually we got to the front of the line where the sniffy sales assistant spent an absolute age examining each of the bras; it really did go on for a long time. Finally she pronounced "One of these bras has been worn." Without missing a beat my stony-faced Father informed her that they most certainly had not been worn by him!

With that bit of drama out of the way, it was full steam ahead to the guitar shop, where my Dad exchanged UKP 325 worth of credit card debt for the sparkly-blue Fender Stratocaster. At the time the choice of colors was red (see above), white (just had that), black (meh), sunburst (too Buddy Holly) or blue (had to have it!). This is what the Fender looked like when it was brand new - i.e. before it was covered in stickers, dings, dents, and before it saw a paint brush or fell off a guitar stand...


The Blue Strat in action circa 1990...


Sam putting the Blue Strat through its paces more recently...

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Escape from Lockdown

We were supposed to visit the Sheep homestead in England this Summer, but obviously those plans were canned a while back. Instead, we managed to sneak up to the Tahoe river for a few days of canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and biking. We also stayed at an AirBnB with a decent pool table. Check out the highlights:



(*we didn't get any footage of the water based activities due to not having a waterproof camcorder just yet).

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Garden Shed part six

Welcome to another compilation of progress rather than a single day's work. I could have written this up sooner, but I've been busy with work...yada, yada....no I'm not complaining...yada, yada....but a break would be nice....

So.....the Saturday before last Sam and I plodded out to the back yard about mid-morning and got cracking. I started off by tinkering with the doors - I wanted to make some stops that prevent the doors from opening inwards. While I was doing that, Sam fired up the orbital sander and went to work on all the globs of excess wood filler Amy Sheep plastered on the weekend before.


After that we snuck off to the workshop to escape from the sun, and fabricated a sort-of door pocket/tool holder thingy for storing small tools and other tat. This is how it looks installed on the inside of the door. I came up with the concept and Sam did all the cutting and joining. We made one for each door.


We also installed some fine wire mesh between the rafters - the shed should be very well ventilated and inaccessible to all but the smallest critters.


We had a break for lunch, and then we carried the first batch of garden tools out to the backyard...


It would be nice if each tool had it's own bay, but we don't have a shed big enough for that...


The door pockets may need some refinement, but this is the basic concept:


This is later after we transferred the hooks that used to hang in the unfinished part of out basement:



I painted primer on the trim that Sam sanded first thing, and then we called it a day.


The next day was Sunday so we gave the shed a wide berth and headed over to Golden Gate park for a spot of what the locals call quad biking.




Fast forward to the weekend that just passed by, and Amy Sheep and I found ourselves in the backyard with a clear mission: Finish the shed or bust! Amy set things rolling by painting the trim - two (2) coats of white dove semi-gloss if you're keeping score.



I worked on refining our tool storage: 




After lunch we put two (2) coats of exterior-wall-color paint on the bits of the shed that are not trim, and that was it: Finito!



Stay tooned to find out what all these tools are going to be used for.....!

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Garden Shed part five

Now here's something: It's been three weeks more or less since my last post, and we've done something towards the shed every weekend....but each increment wasn't really worthy of an independent blog post, and, well...I've been busier than ever with work. So this post is a compilation of our recent-ish progress.

The is how the shed looked when we ambled out to the back yard the day after episode four, following a very adequate breakfast of French toast and non-shatterproof streaky bacon:


The first job was to install some tar paper over the roof sheeting we put down the day before. I put the "roof team" to work on that...



While the roof team was hard at it, Amy and I cut and installed the rest of the siding, although it's difficult to see that in the following picture:


Before we went any further, the rafter tails at the front which will remain exposed to the elements needed priming:


With the priming under control, I helped Samuel Sheep install the roof covering. We're using composition/asphalt shingles in slate gray if you're interested. Sam installed the shingles and I did the cutting and staple gun refilling. We actually used an electric-powered carpet tacker, which fires staples with a 3/16th crown, half the width of common staples - it wasn't the ideal tool, but Sam made it work.


We were using shingles that were left over from patching around the skylight that we installed last Fall, and we ran out halfway through the roof:


We did not run out of primer:


The next photo was taken almost two weeks later - fortunately we picked up some more shingles in the interim:


While Sam was working on the roof, Ruby Sheep got to work on priming the timber we'll be using to construct the doors:


The priming was accompanied by the constant pop-pop-ping of the carpet tacker...



Quinn Sheep kept up with developments from a safe distance...



It came out just like a professionally installed roof:


After that we had to break for Monopoly™


This weekend - the one that will end in about 30 minutes at the time of writing - it was just Amy and I plodding away. After a very adequate lie-in on Saturday we started chipping away at the custom doors. The siding at the front of the shed is made from two 8' x 4' foot panels. I trimmed about eighteen (18) inches off the top of the panels, and then cut out the space for the doors....well, the doors will be made from the cut out pieces. The siding material is 7/16 thick, so they need some beefing up.

The first step was to install a 1" x 3" pine board at the left side which the hinges will bolt into. We did our best to get this piece straight n' true:


This is later after the first door has been fabricated and installed. The pine trim is all 1"x 3", but we ran out of pre-primed material and Ruby Sheep was not on hand to rescue us.


The is the interior look - this side will probably never get painted. The location of the trim is identical to the front; this adds strength and allows us to use longer screws to attach the trim. Time for a spot of luncheon. 


Lining up the siding to start the second door...


Both doors installed, hardware fitted and all the screw holes filled with bondo:


We nailed on L-shaped steel flashings at all four corners....


...and then I put similar darker colored material around the perimeter of the roof - I should have got the ladder back out to take a proper photo really.


We had plans for Sunday that didn't involve sanding bondo or hanging garden tools, so this was as far as we got. Still, it is starting to look more like a shed than a bus shelter at long last!


Tune in next time to see how it looks painted and over-filled with spades, rakes and other related tat!