Sunday, March 19, 2023

Central Yard Part 5

Yet more digging! Apart from adding (a lot) more top soil to the yard, the last thing to do before we can start planting is install the irrigation system. I plumbed in the supply line for the irrigation system last summer. Since then we've had a backflow preventer added.

It was never included in this blog, but we also laid three (3) schedule 40 PVC pipes from this area to the other side of the yard. These pipes emerge on what is now the other side of the concrete walkway. This is one little bit of forward planning I am proud of.  We need three pipes, because the valve control box will be on the opposite side of the walkway from the main supply line. This means one pipe to bring water to the valve box, another to bring it back to the house side of the path, and a third which is a conduit for the electrical cable, since the control box will also be on the house side of the path. The cable was laid at install, and we also threaded a piece of string through one of the other two pipes, so we can differentiate between them without re-excavating. 

We had a plan of where the trenches needed to go. The system will have five (5) stations, each of which will originate uphill from the areas they will irrigate.

First trench done! We had to dismantle parts of the block walls we constructed a few weeks ago.

Two done! 

Station #2 extends right up to the street: 

As you will know, if you studied the plan, some of trenches will carry more than one pipe. Placing these trenches efficiently, and navigating around vegetation we want to keep, meant we had to deviate from the plan somewhat. 

For the most part I ploughed a furrow with a mixture of a regular spade and the jackhammer, and Amy Sheep followed with the trenching spade. If you're not familiar, a trenching spade is about four inches wide, and can be used to remove loose dirt from a narrow channel very efficiently. It's not good for removing hard dirt, since there is no way to drive the blade with your foot, as you might with a regular spade. The smaller size also makes it a "little and often" kind of tool, as my maternal Grandfather might have described it.

Digging around some of the vegetation required a hand trowel:

Station #4 will be located close to the "V" at the center of this picture:

Station #5 is in the far corner next to the fence.

Digging all these trenches in one day was a lot of work, but we have found by taking regular breaks we can push through and enjoy it. This is a sketch of what we ended up with:

Since I had the jackhammer out anyway, I started digging out for the mailbox post/footing. We are installing a new mailbox at the path where we actually walk past it every day. We used to have what will be the "new" mailbox at our old house in Berkeley, and it has been in storage for five (5) years at this point. 

I was doing ok until I hit a missive boulder. I had to use a combination of the jackhammer and a six foot steel digging bar to smash the boulder into pieces I could actually lift out of the hole. I would have used dynamite if I had any. 

I still have about six inches to go, because I want the top of the concrete to be at least six inches below grade - that way we can plant right up to the post. I'm planning for the mailbox to be hit by a car at some point, and I want to make sure the post comes off best by building a massive footing! I could have carried on, but smashing up the boulder took quite a bit of energy, so we packed up for the day.

The next day, the monsoon-like weather resumed: 

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Central Yard Part 4

We've been having awful weather, not just lately but pretty much since the start of the year. Ice on the windshield in the moorings has only been punctuated by endless days of rain and even a few hailstorms. During one break in the onslaught, I managed to sneak outside are start rebuilding the steps that I destroyed a few weeks earlier.

The first step was to re-expose the concrete pier from the old stairs; I'll be building a new pier just behind this.

Dug out for my new pier. The railing posts will be set about a foot deeper tthan the pier.

The next step was to attach the two primary stringers to the deck - I just reused the original joist hangers since there was nothing wrong with them. I was also able to reuse all four original stringers after the rotten sections were trimmed off. I finagled the bracing until I had both stringers level, parallel and plumb with the deck, and then I built some temporary bracing from scrap lumber.

I used a scrap piece of 4"x4" to make sure the footings were in exactly the right places...

...and that was it, because the heavens re-opened and forced me to retreat indoors.

It was over a week later when decent weather and free time coincided, and by then I was busting a gut to get my posts installed and braced:

After that I built a form for my concrete pier: 

I went get the wheelbarrow; it was about a third full with rainwater:

I figured I would need about six bags of concrete for the pier. Fortunately I bought a couple of extra bags, plus there were three more in the garage that I was saving for another project...

Eleven bags was just enough. I had planned the pier to come to the top of the form, but It fell a couple of inches short. 

This is a few days later after the concrete has cured, the forms have been removed and the area around the pier has been backfilled. If you strain your eyes, you can see two pieces of rebar which protrude about a foot from the concrete:

The next step was to cut and drill holes in a piece of 4"x 6" PT which will sit on top of the pier and form the base for the stringers to attach to. 

After the timber is installed, the rebar is "turned over" to provide an anchor. This method was used in the East Bay in the 1930's to secure timber framed houses to concrete foundations; anchor bolts came in the next decade.

The secondary stringers were then leveled, trimmed to the precise length and fastened to the base.

I numbered the treads and risers before I took them apart, so re-installation was pretty simple.

I had to make new cutouts to accommodate the posts:

After that the post were trimmed to the appropriate length, and wood preserver was applied to the exposed end grain.

The sleeves were slipped over the posts, shimmed, at the caps re-installed.

I did not put the railings or handrails back just yet because I will doing some repair work to the deck in the next couple of months....stay tuned to find out exactly what!