Plumbing, using the wood stove and cutting kindling update

October 17, 2019

I got the kitchen drain cleaned out last week and I can say it was an unpleasant job. I learned how to use the plumbing snake to pull the clog out of the pipe, rather than trying to push the snake through the clog.  I did not realize that I needed a bit more patience to work the “snake” through the pipe and into the clog.  I’m not sure if  clogs normally come apart in bits and pieces but that is how my clog got cleared.

My wet/dry shop vac did a darn good job sucking most of the water out of the kitchen drain pipe.  I used a sink plug and wrapped a damp dish rag around the vacuum hose at the kitchen drain and sucked about 2.5 gallons of water out of the drain even though my vent pipe placement kept me from sealing off all the air in the pipe.  While there was some gunky water that came out after I cleared the clog.  I did not have to deal with a flood of smelly water coming out of the pipe clean out.  I had about 2-3 gallons of water and clog (gunk) I collected in a couple of buckets after the clog was cleared.

I doubt I’m the only person that escalated into using a caustic drain cleaner you can pour down a sink drain before they try using a plumbing snake.  I had a couple of my cleanup towels absolutely shredded by the two week old and diluted caustic drain cleaner. If you decide to use a caustic drain cleaner  use a shop vac to get most of the water out of the pipes so the cleaner can work on the clog rather than just sit in your pipes.  A Drain King pressure water blast will clean many clogs depending on the vent pipe location.  Last but least for DIY cleaning out clogs is the plumbing snake that you can buy for under $50.00 and will do most jobs but will take some time and effort.  I have a basement that has exposed plumbing pipes and I’m not dealing with scooting around in a crawl space under a house.  If my house had only “crawl space access” to my plumbing. I would have called a plumber and paid the couple hundred bucks to have the clog cleared rather than DIY the job.

It seems almost all of my DIY plumbing jobs take at least 3 hours.  Now some of that is I’m learning but some of that is I have an old 1910 house that has had been “renovated” a few times and lets say a few of the renovations were not up to to current year (2019) codes.  I’m not exactally a code nazi but when I see some thing as a new DIYer that makes no sense other than “slapping something in place” via this is what I have on hand and it works short term.  I totally get why people now try to renovate to code.  Or at least common sense level of making stuff easy to maintain/repair in the future.  Then again common sense is not that common!

Learning to use the wood stove to heat my house.  SW Idaho winters can be a challenge but the cold and snow are only a problem from November to February.  I heat only with wood heat, though I keep a couple of electric space heaters on hand to warm up cold areas of the house.   I’m doing the wood fires different and burning hot fires in the wood stove.  I’m building up coals for lingering over night, rather than adding wood to smolder/smoke without flames.  It is early fall and it has not been all that cold this month.  What I have noticed is the glass window of my wood stove is staying much cleaner and not “sooting” up and getting dirty like it did last year.  My wood stove window needed cleaning every 1-2 weeks now the window is still mostly clean after burning wood for 3 weeks.  So I think the stove is burning wood more efficiently and cleaner.

Another change is burning poplar like I burn pine or Doug fir.  The wood you can burn is very specific to your region.  Telling me to buy maple or oak firewood in Idaho is nearly impossible or very expensive per cord of wood.  The Inter mountain west have forests of pine, fir and cedar not stands of hardwood trees.  Maple trees are almost considered an invasive species here, as the trees tend to die off quickly after a couple of decades.

Fruit woods like apple, cherry, peach and apricots seem to grow well in this area.  Those trees are not always an available resource for firewood.  So I’ll have to deal with the wood I can afford to buy and burn it as efficiently and cost effective as possible.  Actually it does not matter except for a burning the most efficient clean burn wood fire.  I’m burning poplar clean in my wood stove and my Doug fir is burning clean in the wood stove.  I’m will be warm this winter and I’m very good with that situation!

I cut up more kindling to fill my “kindling box” and I’m worn out.  I did a basic job of splitting some doug fir for 30minutes and then cut into kindling. Splitting wood into kindling takes a lot of time and the work cutting kindling is not easier than splitting wood as it takes a lot more time chopping wood. I split a bunch of doug fir into smaller sizes to be cut into kindling in 20-30 minutes. I spent over an hour cutting some of that wood into kindling and I still did not get through all of the cut wood!  I’m guesstimating but I have at least 4 weeks worth of kindling for myself and mom.

I had to quit cutting kindling because it was getting dark and I was getting tired. I sanded off some rust on my Charcoal grill and added some high heat paint.  Once that paint cures for a day I’ll sand and add another layer of High temp paint.

I survived another birthday and got a few job done.  Not perfect but good enough for me.

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The Black & Decker weed eater arrived!

October 6, 2019

Mom and I traded weed eaters a couple of weeks ago. Mom had a Ryobi and I had a B&D and Mom could not adjust the Ryobi to use comfortably cutting down weeds.  Mom bought the Ryobi to replace an old 18 volt B&D weed eater she loved to use.  I traded with Mom my 20 volt B&D weed eater for the Ryobi and Mom was pleased as punch because she could work more comfortably and get more work done.  I figured I could use the Ryobi with no problems as I have a few inches in height and better upper body strength.  I adjusted the Ryobi for my height and set up the weed eater head at a better cut  angle and I hated using the tool despite the fact it did cut weeds.   The Ryobi is a heavier and bulkier tool compared to the B&D 20 volt weed eater and honestly the Ryobi is awkward to use to get at weeds around fences and in tight spaces.

For me the best recommendation for any tool is that you can’t wait to use it on the 3rd or 4th time doing the work.  Don’t get me wrong, I really like most Ryobi tools and have many of the 18 volt hand tool family including 2 great spritzing water fans that are great patio/ animal cooling fans for summer.  I suspect the Ryobi weed eater was designed for someone that is 5’8″ to 6 foot tall and needs to clear large patches of weeds rather than a gal wanting to clear out grass and weeds around her rose bushes.

True Value Hardware had a great deal on a 20 volt weed eater and blower for $60.00.  I got my replacement weed eater, another air “sweeper” , with another battery and charger.  Heck the battery and charger alone would have cost at least $30.00 on Amazon,so I’m happy with the price.  I got out and used the weed eater today and it reminded me how much I like this tool.  I could get in and clear out weeds and grass around my roses and not cut my fall “Mums” into oblivion.  It was fun getting all those weeds cut down with the B&D.

I did a little work with the B&D “air sweeper” and it does an okay job blowing leaves away on the mulch path ways.  One of the biggest problems with my corded leaf blower is it blows away everything.  Leaves,  mulch, small pets….  The B&D sweeper blows away most leaf clutter without blowing away much of the wood mulch.  If you make wood mulch pathways you will need to replace the mulch every year or two.

Grill cleanup time:  Do you grill?  Have grates of the grill got a bit gunky in places your grill brush can’t reach?  How about your  “Self-cleaning”  oven? Has it got a bit of goo stuck on from that last peach/apple cobbler or pie.  This a great time to run the clean oven cycle on your oven and add all of your grill grates to the oven’s self-cleaning.  Most self cleaning ovens hit over 500 + degrees F. for hours and simply burn off any food residue at high heat.  Turn on your vent fan on low for any smoke and watch your oven burn your gill grates clean.  After your grates are clean wipe down the grates with a high heat food safe oil.  I use lard but peanut oil is a great food safe high heat oil.

Speaking about grills. I have moved my big charcoal grill under the patio cover and will be sanding and adding more heat resistant paint. This was about $200.00 grill.  A bit cheap when you consider I need to buy at least a $500.00 grill to upgrade.  Most “home” grills don’t have the head space to BBQ a 14-17 pound turkey and I love BBQ turkey! BBQ a turkey is easy.  Brine the bird as it thaws for about 5 days.  Use a mesquite chunk/lump charcoal and maintain about 300-350 degree F.heat for 3-4 hours.  Rotate the bird for even cooking around 15-20 minutes and it is done.   This is great job for the BBQ types that love watching meat cook and those that need to cook casseroles and pies have a “turkey free” oven space

BBQing a turkey is much safer than deep frying a turkey. Rather than buying a large bird.  You can buy a couple of smaller birds and try out different brines and seasonings or add wood chips/smoke flavors.  I could cook to smaller birds at the same time but no neighbors have asked me to cook their turkey : (

Burning poplar wood.  I’m getting my poplar cut and split so no effort on my part to to process the wood.  I know that poplar is considered a hardwood but, It really burns like a soft wood, best if you think about it as something like Doug fir rather than another hard wood wood like maple.  I lived through a “chimney fire” as a kid and speaking for myself I always thought a cool “fire” was a good fire.  Welp I was wrong!  A hot fire burns cleaner with very little soot.  Last year I dealt with a lot of ash, this year ash “so far” is almost non-existent.  If it was last year, I would have dumped at least 2-4 ash buckets. This year I doubt I have an inch worth of ash in the wood stove after starting random daily fires.

I did get most of my wood early and it was stacked to dry quickly.  I live in the west so we have lots of pine and fir forests. Very little hardwood for firewood.  Poplar is an okay wood to burn comparable to Doug fir though less easy to split.

That is enough rambling from me today.

 

 

 


New Kitchen Faucet installed and a kitten update

September 21, 2019

I stopped by True value to get some stuff for unclogging my kitchen sink and the store had a nice looking high-rice faucet /with sprayer for a kitchen sink that cost $65.00.  I have been looking for this type of faucet for the kitchen the last couple of months and so I bought it and installed it this weekend.

To say that the plumbing in this house is “problematic” is excessively kind.  Most of the plumbing is a hodge-podge of different materials that seems to have been done cheap and quick rather than done correctly.  Now I’m no plumbing expert but mixing materials like copper, steel, aluminum and plastic pipes along with what looks like “copper brazing” attaching steel pipes to a simple metal shut off valve has made those valve completely ineffective as a shut of valve.  Because those valve are not working I had to shut off all water to the house to replace the Kitchen faucet.

I learned a lot about my house plumbing on this job and the house water valve needs a little extra push to stop all water coming into the house.  3.5 and 5 gallon buckets are your friends for containing water from water pipes that have water in them and not completely depressurized of water and add towels to sop up the water.  I have been replacing water valves under toilets and sinks as I go but the kitchen sink faucet metal base was starting to disintegrate/leak and needed replacement as soon as possible.

I’m not sure when the old faucet was mad but it was basically 3 copper pipes soldered together with an aluminum cover.  I’m guessing the age of the faucet in the 1980’s age range.  The metal in the old faucet disintegrated and I had to sweep up all the metal chunks that fell away as I removed the old faucet.

After dealing with all of the water issues  and the crazy install of the old faucet, I installed a Homepoint High rise faucet that has the ADA compliant and easy to use lever type handles.  The sprayer works great and overall the faucet looks good.  I had a bit of good luck getting all the water fittings tight before I turned on the water main and I had no leaks.  That ability/time to run down to the basement to turn on and off the water and check for leaks made this job a bit more stressful.

I love how high rise faucets make filling up large stock pots to my Mom using the high rise faucet in the bathroom to wash her hair and put a perm.  I’m putting new faucets that have levers rather than the push/pull/twist sort of faucets.  My strength can get a bit “iffy” with my CIDP, but I can certainly push/pull a lever without fine muscular control. My outside door all use levers rather than door knobs.  Evan I on my worst day can use and elbow to push a lever.  Turning a knob is more difficult.

Onto the kitten assimilation at Casa de Chaos.  Well Tucker has allowed the kittens on my bed. Of course the kittens are a bit of pain to me but they seem to be slowly learning not to get in my face.  Tucker seems to be doing more “admonishments”  rather than going after the kittens from instinct.

I still have a slow drain in the kitchen.  I have run the drain snake as far as I can work it trough the kitchen pipes.  I’ll try the “Drain King” pressurize water “blow out” of the clog.  I don’t hate plumbers! Most of them could have installed the kitchen faucet in about 30 minutes or less.  It took me over 2 hours to install a kitchen faucet. That time is money/time/value.


Yard cleanup, fire starters and kindling OH MY

August 26, 2019

I’m getting leaves on the ground along with apples and walnuts.  Keeping the apples and walnuts cleaned up is critical for me as I always find those gifts and either a twist my ankle or end up with Apple goo on my shoes.  Neither outcome is what I consider positive.  The B&D air sweeper/ blower worked well blowing the leaf materiel into a pile, without blowing away the mulch. After that quick blow of the air sweeper it was easy to rake up the heavier stuff and toss it in the garbage.   Speaking of tools Mom and I are trading my B&D 20 volt weed eater for her 18 volt Ryobi. Mom doesn’t feel comfortable using the Ryobi,  based on the tools larger size and over all bulk. I’ll let Mom tryout my smaller/lighter B&D and see if that tool is more comfortable for her.  I think Mom is going to fall in love with the smaller size of the B&D weed eater.

On to making more fire starters. I had a little bit of leftover wax from last year so I bought four pounds of wax for this years batch of fire starters. I used about 1.5-2 pounds to make 120 individual fire starters.  I use 1 fire starter a day in my wood stove. Theoretically 120 fire starters should last about 4 months or from about mid October to February of next year.  Of course things seldom work out as perfectly as the theory says it should and I’m making the fire starters for mom and myself this year.  Mom is bringing some of her extra egg cartons to make more fire starters so that the both of us have at least a couple of months worth on hand this heating season.  Honestly I see my fire starters as a thing to get a fire started fast to warm up the house as quick as possible, rather than a “It would be nice to have a fire tonight” sort of thing.  For that sort of fire I’ll be using newspaper to start that type of fire.

The kindling box or should I say that “Freaking Huge Kindling” box?  I did about 30 minutes of chopping and I managed to fill the bottom of the box about one layer thick of kindling.  That was a little discouraging but I’m glad I gave my self a time limit as I have not chopped wood for almost 2 months and my muscles are out of practice.  I had a little muscle tremor when I was finished with that job.  While my muscles were challenged  by cutting kindling. The Dremel tool and stone sharpening of the axe and hatchet worked great.  If you buy a cheap axe/hatchet like I did the Dremel tools does a great job of putting a better edge on a tool without heating up the steel that might change it’s “temper”.  Yes, I still needed to use the stone to clean up the edge but the Dremel made getting that basic “cutting edge” faster and easier for me.  I have a lopper that crushes rather than cuts. I think the Dremel might put a good edge on that tool.  I want to learn how to maintain those yard cutting tools and make them better at the job.  I don’t remember who said it but there is a quote about someone given a job to cut down a large tree in 6 hours and the first 4 hours he spent sharpening the axe/saw.


Mom got firewood, gutters cleaned.

July 12, 2019

We cheated a little bit with loading Mom’s firewood.  We loaded some of the smaller hardwood stuff and then filled in the rest of the truck with the cut and split poplar I bought in June. I got a bit more wood out of the bargain but, I have to do the work of cutting and splitting that wood.  Mom gets the cut and split firewood that is ready to burn in her wood stove. I figure I have about 4.5-5 cords of cut and split fire wood and about 1.5 cords of mostly hardwood that needs to be cut or split stored for this winter. So giving Mom some easy to burn firewood for her woodpile was an easy choice, that works for both of us.  Mom has been dealing with a back injury for about 9 months and has a day surgery scheduled next week.  So cutting and splitting wood is NOT a job she needs to be doing for a few weeks. I can putter around my wood pile and split the hardwoods and make kindling this summer that will help us both this winter.  I did not expect to hit my 6+ cords of wood goal this summer so if I have to help Mom out I have plenty of wood on hand.

The gutters are clean out though I did not do the work.  It cost $70.00 to have the gutters cleaned and that seemed like a good price in comparison to me going up and down the ladder 140 times cleaning out the goop in the gutters for a couple of days.  I have bought some gutter screens and a debris downspout catcher that I want to install this summer.  If you install gutter don’t rely on chain down spouts if you have a lot of leaf debris or winter snows. Chain downspouts are okay as a decorative element but to move water effectively install good downspouts.  It should be easier/cheaper to add a chain down spout to a gutter system with down spouts rather than adding good down spouts to a chain system.

Summer has finally got hot here in the Treasure Valley.  90-100 degrees F. for the next 5-7days which isn’t that bad for mid- July in High desert. I can handle working a few couple of hours outside as long as I stay in the shade.  I am not ready to work in full sun but there are plenty of jobs to be done in the shady part of the yard or in the A/C cooled house.

One of the jobs I’m starting is painting. I have been watching youtube vids on how to do some basic Sheet rock repairs and taking time to get all of the prep work down prior to painting. I did some very minor/sheet rock repairs using spackle and an expired credit card to spread the spackle.  Wow! using that card made a huge difference in how the repair blended into the existing drywall.  Taking more time to let the repair cure and then sanding is making the repair almost unnoticeable other that the wall needs to be all one color. I have quite a few of my first attempts at repairing drywall jobs that look terrible in comparison. I’ll be sanding those “repairs” back to the Drywall and getting them cleaned up a prepped for paint.

I’m starting with my 3/4 bathroom that needs not only new paint but some new flooring as the linoleum is cracking and has split.  I’d like to install a new sink faucet and shower hardware but that will have to wait as I save money for those projects.  While this job “updating” the small bathroom are cosmetic.  I’m turning what I have learned in theory, into practice on a small project.  I have most of the tools I need to do the project correctly and not just slap a coat of paint and hope no one notices all the mistakes.

 


Finally got most of Mom’s blinds done!

July 6, 2019

I have been adding/replacing Mom’s old blinds with my somewhat better shape old blinds.  I bought a couple of packages for universal fit blind brackets for Mom’s 47 inch blind.  The old blind brackets are so old the brackets are very brittle and tend to crack into non-functional pieces. While the new brackets are cheap at least they are made of a flexible, yet rigid material not prone the cracking under a little bit of pressure.  Mom’s windows are all dry wall casements not wood framed.  That adds another challenge installing blinds that fit within the dry wall window casement.  I think the correct long term solution for Mom’s windows would be a window casement that frames the windows, but that would probably require a custom built window blind to fit the new interior dimensions.  The windows sort of suck for installing blinds easily but the window casement dimensions currently can be fitted with standard blinds available at most Big Box stores at low cost.

I added one of those sort of cheap roller sunshade blinds to the outside of a small window that has the portable A/C unit. It took a little cussing but over all the blind seemed to cut the heat on that window with out blocking the light for that corner of the room.  You can see through the gaps of the blind from inside but you can’t really see into the house from the outside.  We added new curtains and curtain rod to the “big” kitchen window. The new thermal curtains in place of the short half window curtain rod seems to make that area feel bigger.  The new thermal curtains are a light color and I think having the half window curtains broke up the flow of the window and wall by divided the window in half.  I felt as if that side of the house and window were cooler.  That might have been a reaction to make my work feel worthwhile but Mom said she thought the rooms looked and felt “better”, more like it was her home and not just a house.

I did a bunch of little jobs around Mom’s house but those little jobs really made a big impact on the look and feel of her home.  I need to help Mom replace the guts of her toilet. Now that she has bought tools for the job it should be simple if not easy.  Mom wants to do the work and I’ll be offering “helpful advice” as she does the job.  This will be great for Mom to use her own tools to fix her own toilet.

I have great news!  My peke Tucker seems to adjusting/feeling more secure about load noises like thunder or fire works. He only freaked out during the 4th for about an hour and I gave him tight hugs.  On the 5th it only took about 15-20 minutes of hugging to get him to calm down. Tonight the 6th we had a bit of thunder and fire works and Tucker found his quiet spot.   Just having the little pup feel secure and safe is wonderful!

Next week moving and stacking wood, Huzzah??!!!  Also I got another new/used coffee pot and hopefully it it will work more than 3 days!

 


Great shopping this week end and trying to help Mom

June 30, 2019

Albertson’s had a good sale this week, but what it a great shopping weekend for me is the additional 10% off for veterans.  Oh and some additional coupons for chicken thighs at about 70 cents per pound. A couple of 3 plus pound packages of petit-sirloins and the freezer is about full of meat for the next several months.  True Value Hardware had a ‘pedestal fan’ on sale for $16.99 that I bought.  I like this fan, as the round pedestal is very heavy, so the the fan does not seem prone to tipping.  I prefer a solid sloping pedestal fan rather than a fan that sits on on a X of metal legs as the base of the fan.  No toes getting hung up/kicking the fan base. I will buy another of these fans for the living room to help circulate cool and warm air this summer and winter. Having the correct fan in place to circulate either cool or warm air is critical for me as I no longer use any sort of “Central Air/ Heating system.  Even with adding all the additional fans to move air my power bill is still much lower compared to using my old “central system”.

I did not get to help Mom much this weekend.  I had about 4 hours sleep on Saturday.  My attitude and emotional outlook was “problematic”.  I had no desire to inflict my poopy attitude on Mom so I rescheduled for Sunday.  Mom did not feel good/tired and her attitude was not conducive to getting much work done on Sunday.  The day was not a total loss as I got Mom some sale stuff from Albertsons and I installed one of my old blinds in her kitchen window.  Mom wants to replace the guts of her toilet but did not get everything needed for a total replacement.  That is okay, as I did not bring all the tools needed to do the replacement of toilet “guts”.

Speaking of tools.  Having good hand tools for a variety of DIY jobs usually does not get much attention on prepping websites. It is all buy antique hand powered tools or battery power tools and we don’t see how multi-functional a good set of vice-grips, channel lock pliers or screwdriver set can be a critical tool.  I’d say if you are looking for 2nd hand tools check out your local Pawn shop. Most of the tools are “contractor grade” and can be had for a good price.

Last but not least.  I will say, you should try doing a few small DIY jobs.  Buy the tools as you can afford so you tackle larger jobs.  Also if you think a job “in home” may be to big to tackle in a 2 days get a good contractor to do the work. If you are working in the yard or your shop take all the time you need to do the job.  How do you find a good contractor?  Educate yourself about the job and ask questions of the contractor.  You don’t have to be an expert, just some basic knowledge about the work you want done and how that work “should” be done.

You will screw up and make mistakes, that is part of learning a new skill. Sometimes the difference between failure and success is 1/8th of an inch or less.