Thursday, July 30, 2009

I'm Back!!! - Extra L O N G Post

Well, as the title says - I'm back. It's been awhile hasn't it? Can you believe it's been over five months?

Just so you know, we have not been idle during this time. And just to get it out of the way - NO the kitchen is not done, it is still in the same condition it was back in February.

I just needed to take a major break from the kitchen - it was driving me nuts!! I needed a mental and physical break from the thing. Now it's time to start getting at it again. I want my holidays and the kitchen needs to be workable for that to happen.

As I stated earlier, we have been busy. Where shall I begin...

The fence around the property is gone; except the part in the back that the trees have taken over.

I've extended the rock wall out front by almost double. I've not quite finished the termination point though, I'm not sure how I want it to end.

The carpet has had to come out of the basement due to a leak thanks to all the rain. We are now going to look at other flooring options down there.

The septic tank finally blew up on us so work has begun on it. More of this later - with pictures.

We have also removed about six trees with three, possibly four, more slated to be gone ASAP. More on this later as well with TONS of pictures.

On top of this I have started a rebuild of my '63 SIIa 88 Land Rover Station Wagon. If you're interested you can out the progress on that here. I've been waiting a long time to do some serious work on Grover and a few months ago it became almost impossible to shift into/out of gears. So the time is right.

I've also been helping my father with his small business.

So, as you can see, I have been busy - Scouts Honor!!!

In order to kick off this long delayed post, let's take a look at just a few of the projects.

First up are the trees.

In early May we determined that our Apricot tree was, for the most part, dead. We had no idea how old it was but based on the tree itself we figured it to be about 30 years old. It started dying about three years ago and we have done what we could to save it, but nothing worked. So, like the one that came out our first year here, this one came out as well. The original fruit trees are now all gone.

That was the first tree this year.

Then, back in early Spring we had a freak ice/snow storm and it damaged the Hackberry tree in the back west lawn. If you clicked on the link it's the one just about in the center of the picture. Due to previous ice/snow storms during the last few years the tree was really starting to tilt. The base of the tree was lifting up and there was a noticeable mound. When the last storm hit it split a big trunk of the tree. We knew it would be just a matter of time before the whole thing came down and destroyed some of the surrounding trees, bushes, yard light and well house cover.

So, we decided the best thing to do was a preemptive strike and take it down.

My father-n-law had the week before the 4th of July off so he offered to help. We honestly thought it would take a day, maybe two, to deal with this tree and then we could move on to the others. It took three days...and the heat index was at 110 degrees!!

Now, let's get on to what you are all wanting to get to - the pictures!!

I thought we had a picture of the tree in it's damaged form, but we can't find it - sorry. But - we have lots of other pics!

Here is the tree with all the branches off of it.

It took two days to top out this tree. The two branches that took so long had grown up, and into, the tops of three other trees and hung over the well house, bushes and a yard light. So, to make sure we didn't damage all of the surrounding stuff we had to tie off parts of the large upper branches and cut them off in small pieces. It took one day alone just to get the branches over the well house down.

The next day was spent removing the other parts of the tree that went to the west and the south. These had to be roped off as well AND we had to apply force to make sure the larger parts came down where they needed to. In fact, the one that came down between the trunk and the red barn missed the barn by less than 5'.

Unfortunately, SWMBO did not have those two days off and we didn't even think to take pictures. Those you see here were taken by her on the third, and subsequent, days.

After working for two days on the one tree we decided to shift our efforts to some of the other, smaller, trees to come out.

Sadly, the Weeping Maple in the front yard had to be worked on. Half of it was dead and it was time to deal with it.

Hopefully we will get at least a couple more years out of the rest of it before the whole thing has to go.

BTW - before I forget... The big Hackberry, as well as the Weeping Maple, were hard to get tie ropes to. In order to do this we actually had to use a bow & arrow with a line attached to the arrow.

Also, two of the large trunk/branches were so dead that they shattered on impact with the ground.

The worst part of this whole ordeal was the next two trees. We had to cut down two live Oak trees!!


These two trees were just too close to the house. We knew the day would come that they'd have to go, but we didn't expect it to be so soon.

The first one was the smallest one up by the front steps.

Here we are getting ready to do the deed.

The father-n-law was going to do the cutting (he loves to use a chainsaw) and I was going to provide tension with the rope.

HEY!!! Did you notice that the fence was gone? I just don't have the heart to remove the gate yet. Yeah...I's kind of tacky leaving it there.

Well, we thought this tree would be the easiest one to bring down. No topping needed, just notch and cut.

Turns out the tree had a mind of it's own.

What you are seeing here is the tree deciding to go the other direction and to take me with it!! I'm trying hard to pull back, but the tree was heading for the house. SWMBO dropped the camera and ran to help - the father-n-law came running as well.

When the thing fell it came down with such a gust, and so close to us (just a couple of feet), that it blew SWMBO's hair back. For a second there it looked as though she were riding on the back of a motorcycle!!

And there it is - looks like a row of bushes doesn't it?

The big deal is the sun light. Do you see how much sun light the house is getting now? Boy the house needs painting.

The next Oak is so close to the house you can't even stick a fist between the tree and the house.

Instead of just cutting it down, SWMBO wanted it topped off so the cats could still get on the porch roof. They love to get up there and nap in the sun.

As you can see it really is too close to the house and it's starting to interfere with the power line as well (it's that black line running into the branches).

So we start dismantling the thing.

Believe it or not, that is me holding the chain saw. Yes, it is an electric one, however, this one does just as well as the heavier gas ones. Even the father-n-law was impressed with how well it did.

Okay, now comes the fun part...

As you can see, there is a rope coming out from the top of the tree. This rope is tied to a rather large truck. The plan is to keep just enough tension on the rope to make sure it falls where we want it too - the herb garden.

When all was set the father-n-law made the last cut...

...go figure, it did not fall where it was suppose to, but to the north side of the herb garden instead.

Turns out the top of this tree was way bigger than we had thought, it was very compact.

Also - see all the sun light hitting the house?!! MAN - have we got to paint!

You can see where it fell to the north side of the herb garden better in this shot. I even moved that fancy bird bath so the top would have a clear spot.

Not only did it miss the spot, but it yanked the truck, just about crushed a wheelbarrow and barely missed SWMBO. This is the ONLY tree that did not fall where we had planned - including the one that tried to pull me to the house!

At least the power line was unharmed.

See this?! That's where the tree top base hit the sidewalk.

Based on this we've estimated that the top that came down had to weigh about 1 ton.

We figure that the unexpected weight is what caused the tree to fall in a different spot.

When the top started to fall it twisted for some reason and fell straight down. The butt hit the sidewalk and then keeled over.

This is my dad. He and the father-n-law were giggling like monkeys when this happened.

It really surprised everyone that it went down between two trees (without hurting them) and missed taking out the power line. We head no idea that the tree was that tall; the sucker was so tall the tip of it was at the edge of the drive!

Note the thickness of the concrete. The weight of the tree, and force of the impact, created a divot almost 12" deep!!!

Okay - now that all those other trees have been taken care of it was time to return to the Hackberry.

Look at those chunks of wood. Each one is about the size of a microwave and heavy.

See the dead tree just to the left in the picture? That one will be coming down this Fall.

Now this is where it gets REALLY interesting.

The tree was actually two trees; a larger and smaller one. The smaller one has already been taken care of, the bigger one is turning out to be a problem.

We have been able to cut all the way around the thing but it won't even budge.

So, more cutting is done in order to try and make deeper cuts.

It still won't budge...not even a jiggle.

Look at all those cuts!!

We know the blade is getting in there, but the sucker just - won't - budge!!

So we get out some railroad prys to see if they might get it to at least move a bit.


We were also hoping this might allow us to see where we aren't getting too - it didn't.

We decided to see if we could make it creak if we pulled on it from the top.

Still nothing...

So we get the truck - not the big one, but a truck none the less.

Guess what...the rope broke, and this was a BIG rope!!

So now we go to a heavy duty tow strap.

In the mean time SWMBO is laughing at us.

Believe it or not...still nothing!!

In fact, the front of the truck lifted up off the ground!! Unfortunately it happened so fast SWMBO missed getting a picture of it.

So, with the truck pulling, and me prying, we figured we'd at least get a 'crack' from it.

You guessed it - NOTHING!!!

There is even a gap around the thing, but we still can't see where the snag is.


...out comes the chainsaw again...

...and again we try to budge it with the truck...and still NOTHING!!!

If you look close you can even SEE the gap around the whole thing.

I'm beginning to wonder if the tree grew up around a metal post and engulfed it.


...out comes the chainsaw again.

Jeez!! Do you see how much of the base is gone and the thing just stands there taunting us!!!

I'm starting to think explosives might be in order.

Instead, we try the tuck one more time.

Guess what?


Can you believe this shot?!?!

We're still not sure how she got it, but SWMBO snapped right at the perfect moment!

That thing is in midair and you can even see the sawdust flying off of it.


As you can see, the saw blade went all the way through it except for a small section that was only about 1" wide and 4" long.

Man that's one big trunk. It even makes me look smaller!!

Now what?!?!

Look close - in the jumble of wood chunks you can see a jack. That's not just any kind of jack but a railroad jack. That thing is designed to lift several tons and we had to use it to prop up the bigger limbs in order to cut them safely.

This stupid tree just didn't look that big!!

As you can see though, the tree was dying. That's what the dark centers are, the dead parts.

It's even big compared to the truck.

Notice the strap at the base? We used it, and the truck, to move the thing away from the stump. We are going to burn that sucker out!!

Actually, we started burning it July 11th and kept it going for almost two weeks. You know what - it hasn't phased it!!

Well, this is the last picture of the trees.

SWMBO isn't thrilled that I'm posting this picture, but it's a good one showing the size of the stump.

Besides, I told her it was 110 degree heat index and we had been working our butts off. No one is going to care if she doesn't look like June Cleaver.

Now on to the next project we've started. This one DOES involve the kitchen.

Remember the powder room off the kitchen? The original plan was to work on that once the kitchen got under control. However, the more we thought about it it just made sense to start on it while the kitchen is the way it is. By doing it this way we will avoid the mess that would get all over a finished kitchen.

The pictures are a bit haphazard, do you have any idea how hard it is to get good pictures in such a small room?

BTW - the powder room is only 4'9.5" x 3'5" and only 6'9" to the ceiling.

I have learned more about this little room, but you will have to wait till the next post to find out what.

Okay - the hole in the wall is where the medicine cabinet was.

There were six screws 'supposedly' holding the thing in. In reality only one screw was actually screwed into the stud. There other five were just 'there'.

Self explanatory - the throne.

I mainly wanted you to see this picture for two reasons; 1) the hideous gold wallboard (the same kind that was in the main bathroom) & 2) so you can see how small it is. Look at the picture and you can see each of the corners - barely.

Again, you can see just how small the room is, but it is a decent size for a powder room.

And this picture should let you know just how cramped it is. See how close the toilet is to the lavatory?

This is one reason we bought that small corner sink. That should help give the illusion of a bigger space.

Perhaps a trompe l'oeil similar to this one would help.

More of the hideous wallboard.

Man - the 70's must have been wild!!

There is also a heat vent in here.

There were a few surprises around this thing as well. You'll have to wait till the next post though!

The ceiling.

Not sure what is under those tiles, but I know what 'should' be there.

Check this out - some of the old wallpaper.

I'll be showing you a better picture of this later.

Sorry about the fuzziness of the photo, but at least it's usable.

This is what I found under the wallboard behind the toilet. The plaster is rotten, but, it does introduce a mystery.

Ah yes, what would a project like this be without at least one problem?

The baking dish is there to catch a slow leak. When attempting to undo the water connection for the hot tap the little pipe cracked. I was able to shore it up except for the small drip. Oh well, at least it isn't a gusher!!

The other major project going on is the septic system.

You might remember that I mentioned we were having problems with it a few years back. Turns out there was only about 10' of laterals and no leaching field. So we installed a fancy, state of art filtration system.

That was three years ago and that's when we started having all the rain.

Long story short - three years of record breaking rain was just too much for the septic tank. The poor thing had a critical meltdown.

To give a bit of history on the tank; we believe it is over 70 years old and it is a brick tank with a sand-bed filter. Go here for a good look at one; the second picture is what we have.

As you can see, it is not sealed. With all the water we have had these past three years the tank just could handle it. It's really too bad because these types of tanks are better for the environment.

Here is what we have - 'Simpson's Swamp'.

It is truly a sight to behold AND smell!!

Kind of looks like a small river is forming doesn't it?

The City maintenance crew, as well as the contractor, started the job Monday morning at 8AM. The City has to supply us with sewer, but the sewer line was about 300', or more, from our property line. So a new, 8" line had to be installed first.

First problem - they hit a sewer line that had been installed heading towards our house and just capped. It wasn't listed on any map and no one knows who, or when, it was installed. My father was the City Supervisor for over 10 years from the mid 80s to the mid 90s and he doesn't even know who did it. The sad part, if they would have known it was there they would have been able to put the new line in in a day.

Second problem - they hit a fiber optics cable that was missed by the locating crews.

Third problem - they hit an electrical line that was supposedly removed several years ago.

It took a day to take care of those problems, a day to dig the trench and install the pipe, and an additional day to back fill the trench. On top of this, work on Monday and Tuesday was interrupted in the early afternoon by rain storms!

Thursday and Friday - I have no clue what they were doing but the contractor who helped the city, and is doing our part as well, hasn't shown up.

We are thinking that he might have not shown up because the ground is so wet he doesn't want to mess up our yard. I also heard that one of his machines burst a hydraulic hose, so he might be getting that fixed. It's just irritating that he hasn't talked to us about when he will be here.

Oh'll get done at some point.

Here is the scar that was made across the road and parking lot. They did a great clean up job.

The beginning of the trench is over by the bushy stuff on the other side of the road. You can kind of see the dirt patch.

The mound of dirt to the bottom right of the picture is where the connection to our line will be made.

And, like usual, the job is being inspected by the local code enforcer. I can't believe she is so clean considering all the dirt.

And this is the spot where the two lines will meet.

The pipe will be turned towards our line once they get it there.

Hopefully they will get started on our side Monday.

Well, that's enough for now. It has taken me two evenings to write this post as it is.

Till next time...