Thursday, March 30, 2023

Central Yard Part 6

Even in the context of the wettest Winter we've had in fifteen years, the last week has been horrific. Last Wednesday we were lashed by one of those storms that's so big it got its own name. Trees were down all over the East Bay, and a big rig was blown over on the east bound Bay Bridge right at commute time*.

Nevertheless, by Thursday evening the storm was over, and at the time of writing we have enjoyed three full days of sunshine and roses. I had a few chores to do on Saturday morning, but once they were out of the way it was straight out to the yard to finish digging the hole for the mailbox post. The hole finished up being 29 inches below grade - a little bit deeper than I planned, but whatever. The post to which the mailbox will eventually be attached needs to be 31 inches above grade according to USPS I need a post 60 inches long. I made one of those from a pressure treated 4" x 4", and I added wood preserver to the cut end. (Note the wheelbarrow cutting table!) 

There is steel sleeve which slides over the post. The sleeve is about 44" inches long, so it will also be partially buried. 

I made a collar out of scrap lumber - this will be useful when I need to brace the post in position.

The sleeve fit was quite loose so I used to shims to center the sleeve on the timber post....still working on top of my wheelbarrow!

I connected the sleeve to the post with some galvanized steel lag screws I happened to have in the shop. 

As I mentioned earlier, it was a beautiful day, so I headed outside to install the post. I wrapped the upper section of the post in clingfilm, so I won't have to worry about wiping off any stray concrete. The post was secured with a couple of 2" x 4" braces which are connected to stakes which I sunk a couple of feet into the dirt. Getting the post plumb took a bit of back and forth because I was working on my own.

This is later...the post hole took three and a half bags of concrete which I mixed by hand in the wheelbarrow; it didn't seem worth getting the ent mix out for such a small amount.

With that done, it was time fort cuppa tea and un ox-tongue sarnie in front ot fire. Or something like that. After a suitable interlude I headed back outside and set to work on the irrigation system. With the trenches pretty much completed last weekend, it was time to start laying some pipe and making connections.  I started by digging out a couple of barras worth of dirt from around the main supply line. 


This is after the main line has been connected to the pipe which passes below the walkaway - I used a threaded coupler in case I ever need to disconnect this line or drain it, if it ever gets that cold...

Started laying some pipe! I'm using 3/4 inch schedule 40 PVC pipe, the first section of which is shown below: 

Made the necessary connections to the section which passes below the walkway. The two vertical pipes at the rear do not carry water; one is a conduit for the electrical cable and the other is a spare.

Pipe to station #2 installed; this one terminates next to the new mailbox. 

So far I have been installing pipe on the house side of the walkway and connecting it to the sections which pass below the concrete. However, to make the system work, I need to install valves between the incoming line and each station. The valve manifold will be going in the spot Delilah is inspecting below, which is where the pipes emerge from below the walkway.

This is the same spot after several barra loads of dirt (and Delilah) have been removed:

The valve manifold was installed on top of some landscape fabric.

Made the connections to the incoming water, and to the pipes which serve stations #1 and #2, that I installed earlier, and added three more pipes to serve the other stations. We have six valves, so one of them is spare for now.

Extended the pipes to stations #3, #4 and #5, each station has an separate pipe beyond the valve.

The next day I made the electrical connections to the valves and to the control box and tested the system. The good: all stations work as intended, and there were no leaks in the PVC pipe...and the bad: several valves were leaking slightly, just dripping really. Research on the interwebs tells me that I probably need a pressure moderating fitting at the incoming water line, so that's next weekend's project.

 Luckily there was just enough time left to install the new mailbox and backfill around the post...

And remove the old one. It was quite an effort to remove the concrete and the mailbox/post in one piece, but I can promise it will be much more difficult to get rid of the one I just installed. After snapping this photo, I went inside to mop my brow and neck a quick cup of Rosie. When I came back outside, our mail person had delivered mail to the old box! He/she/they had to get out of the van and walk across the yard to do that too. Who says USPS is lazy? Poorly trained maybe. I retaliated by yanking the old mailbox another ten feet away from the street and turning it upside down. If I get anymore mail delivered to that box, I really will be (un)impressed...

(*first two photos from CHiPs SF twitter).

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!