Chaos at the Star Rigger Ranch, Pt. 2

Range Hood Update!

So, they didn’t bore the hole in the wall for the range hood for another week, which was ample time for me to cut open the inside wall and discover that a stud lay squarely in the path of my projected hole! Gah. After regrouping and consulting, I changed the plan and took down the slim-profile rectangular duct that I’d worked so hard on, and switched to round duct all the way—just enough difference to slide past the stud. It worked! But it left me with an ugly rectangular hole to close up. Oh well, we eat problems for breakfast here at the ranch. I applied myself to the problem, and the ugly hole is gone! And the range hood is operational!

A lot of finish work remains. For example, I had to cut a hole in the side of the gleaming stainless steel chimney (that’s what they call the decorative shroud around the actual exhaust duct). Me and my Dremel (and several expendable cutting wheels), we did it. Did good, too. Except one thing: the chimney is too short! It doesn’t reach the ceiling! How did I not see that before?

The manufacturer offers a chimney extension piece—for $165! That’s almost the cost of the whole unit. I am now hoping to find a local sheet metal worker who can fabricate a piece for me for less.

Sitting tight on that for now. We love having a real exhaust vent for our smoky cooking! Plus, I put up the re-cut pegboard, and Allysen now has a new hobby of figuring out what to hang on it and how.

Oh, and we now have a working porch lift in front of the house. Did I mention?

(Also, I’ve had enough home construction to last me the year.)

Chaos at the Star Rigger Ranch, Pt. 1

Because things weren’t crazy enough around here, we now have two major construction projects going at the same time.

A porch lift is going in beside our front steps, so Allysen’s mom can come and go safely. Here’s the concrete pad that got poured today. The lift will be moved from its previous owner and installed here over the next couple of days.

Meanwhile, on the inside, I’m completing my birthday present to Allysen (her birthday was in February): a range hood for our kitchen. We have needed a range hood and exhaust since we bought the house 26 years ago. But the stove is on an inside wall, and that makes it hard. Why are we insanely taking on this job at the same time as the other? Because the guys installing the lift have a big ladder, and they’re going to cut through the wall for me, and install the outside vent—which is located nearly three stories up!

Here’s our original (and still working) exhaust fan, which lemme tell you is chilly in February! And our smoky stove, with a pegboard holding everything:

Here’s the new hood, up for testing:

And here’s proof of progress (except I just took everything down so we can paint the wall):

Tomorrow they cut the wall.

Driveway Chronicles, Pt. 3 (Finale)

Previously on Driveway Chronicles:

When last we saw our intrepid heroes, the paving crew had departed and our heroes were left to reinstall the fence that just one year ago, they had fashioned from raw lumber with their skinned knuckles and calloused hands. Groundhog Day all over again. This might have been a job for a short afternoon break, if everything still fit as it had originally. Of course, nothing did, and so putting it all back took a little longer. But now it is done!

Those are permeable pavers, by the way, in “Beacon Hill Blend.” It’ll be interesting to see how they work out for draining water when Ma Nature hits us with the snows and whatnot.

Here’s the Before and After:

 

 

Driveway Chronicles, Pt. 2

Day two of the driveway rebuild. A tale to be told mainly in pictures.

Here they work on the permeable concrete pavers near the garage:

The first of two layers of asphalt gets its start:

Loading up the paving machine for the straight run down the drive:

Steamrollered!

Starting the top layer:

Here’s the final result!

Tomorrow, I hope to put the fence and gate back up. They need to come back and tweak one thing. And then it will be done.

I learned from this project: a) that there are still people out there who do really good work; and b) that no matter how good they are, you still have to be there, checking every detail. Details have a way of getting lost in the dust cloud of construction. If I hadn’t been there looking in every couple of hours and asking for corrections, we would not have been nearly as happy. But we’re delighted with the final product!

 

 

Driveway Chronicles, Pt. 1

While Mother Nature is tearing things down left and right, we’re doing our little bit to build things up. When we bought our fixer-upper, one of the items on our major house-projects list was to replace the cracked and shifting concrete driveway. Now, a mere 26 years later, we are having it done. The proximate cause was a desire to have Allysen’s mom be able to walk on it without risking her neck. But the guy who shovels the snow every year (me) was not above putting in that he wouldn’t mind having a smooth surface to scrape away at.

Many daunting tasks needed doing to prepare for this undertaking, but the hardest for me psychologically was taking down (even if temporarily) a big section of fence I just built and installed a year ago. Here’s how it looked before today.

The paving crew arrived at 7:30 this morning, which anyone who knows me knows is only a theoretical time of the day, as far as I’m concerned. We had to be not just awake enough to move the cars out of the driveway, but awake enough to discuss design details and make decisions. I wonder if they started this early when they built Rome in a day.

Here’s how things looked, soon after, as they tore up the old concrete:

And cut away the most cracked and crumbling part of the garage floor:

And installed the line of granite cobblestone that will edge the driveway:

And smoothed out the newly patched floor:

And laid out concrete pavers on the new patio-in-progress:

And…dumptrucks!

All that has happened today. And they’re still out there working.

(To be continued…)

 

The Arlington Chronicles Part ?? — Wanna Help Me Build a Fence?

No idea what I last posted about our continuing building and renovation madness, and the thought of looking back makes me feel tired, so none of that. Look forward, always look forward. Do you see a fence? A backyard fence? Keep looking: It’s starting to come into focus.

back-yard-fence

This is what I’ve been building for the last month or two (surely it’s been longer): a little fence in the back yard to make a place for dog-in-law McDuff the Crime Dog to run around in. And since we’re going to all that trouble, we might as well make it big enough for Captain Jack, too, right? So he can turn our back yard into a moonscape, with his digging?

arbor-partially-finished

I told Allysen this would take a lot longer than we thought, and in that I was correct! For one thing, there was the little matter of putting together the arbor kit (some assembly required!) that I promised her fifteen years ago I would assemble for Mother’s Day. The arbor is part of one of the gateways for the fence, you see. A sort of portal into the backyard dimension. Well, I got that up—and I was never so glad that I’d bought a cordless nail-gun with a different project in mind. And as of today… there be a GATE!

jack-contemplates-gate

Here it is, in all its newly built glory! And from outside the portal into the back yard:

portal-to-the-back-yard-dimension

The second gate is gonna be bigger. But that’s another story, still to be told.

 

The Move Is Done!

finished-shower_20160915Allysen’s mom is all moved into our downstairs apartment. That actually happened a couple of weeks ago, but we’ve been so busy working on things that didn’t get done that I haven’t gotten any of it written up. I know I sort of promised to tell all about it in the Arlington Chronicles, sequel to the famed Ponce Chronicles—but you know, I don’t think that’s going to happen. For weeks, we were flat out focused on getting the bathroom remodeled, the old five-layers-of-linoleum kitchen floor ripped up, the newly-exposed old hardwood floor (and all the rest of the apartment’s floor) refinished, old cabinets taken out or repainted, walls and ceilings painted, tripping hazards removed, electrical work done…jeez, just listing this stuff is giving me flashbacks. And here I had finally stopped dreaming about caulking and painting….

finished-bathroom_20160915During the planning of the floor refinishing, Allysen asked the floor guys to redo the stairs going up to our second floor apartment. Which is great, but the polyurethane stuff reeks forever, and we used the back stairs for two weeks while it aired and hardened. Then, just as we were starting to use the stairs again, I realized that the floor guys had forgotten to recoat the risers and side panels. They came back to do that, and gave a third coat to the steps for good measure. Can’t breathe! Back stairs for two more weeks! But those steps are going to outlast us… as soon as we can start using them again.

our-stairs-refinished_20160928You may be unsurprised to learn that I did not get a word of writing done during that month (six weeks?). I am now angling around the manuscript that was going so well in July, trying to size it up and decide if it’s really mine. It looks sort of like mine, but also sort of different, and I’m not sure anymore. But I think this is where I left it, so it probably is mine. I’ll work on it and see how it goes.

We’re still not done. Tomorrow the plumbers will be here, and the next day the electricians come to upgrade our service. Maybe if I cover my eyes, they won’t see me.

Anyway, Fay is all moved in now, and she likes it here. Three cheers and a frozen margarita!

Seeing Backwards Better

My latest “spare time” project has been installing a rearview camera on my trusty Ford Ranger, a.k.a., the Landshark.  When we were in Puerto Rico, our rental car had one, and we quickly came to wonder how we had gotten along without one all these years. The truck, especially with the cap over the back, has limited visibility when backing up, and I’m just grateful I’ve never backed over anyone, at least that I know of. On our return from PR, I did some research, and bought a kit with a camera for the back bumper, and a replacement rearview mirror that has an LCD screen hidden behind the mirror surface—a clever solution to the lack of any good place to put a screen on the dashboard.

The installation was, um, considerably more finicky than I had expected. And I’m used to doing things like patching new electronics into the fuse box, having already done that with a new stereo and subwoofer, a year or two ago. The lack of any instructions with the kit should have been a sign. But Crutchfield has a pretty good tech support department, and I muddled along, buying ancillary parts and tools along the way. I enlisted daughter Lexi to help with the splicing and soldering and wiring, and she got to crawl around under the truck, spitting out rust while stringing cable along the frame from the back of the truck to the cab. Hey, I’ve been there and done that stuff, and I didn’t need the experience! But that wasn’t the hardest part. No, the hardest part was aiming the little camera that came with no provision for adjusting the aim!

In the end, I got a camera that works, sort of, though not nearly as well as the factory-installed models. The little distance guidelines that you see in the view are weirdly and erratically inaccurate, for one thing. I called the manufacturer, and to their credit they are sending me a couple of alternate types of camera at no cost, so I can see if I can get better results from one of them. Stay tuned.

Here’s Lexi, helping me check the view in the camera. This is what you get when you hold a camera up to a rearview mirror, to take a picture of an LCD screen showing the image from a camera at the back of the truck, with the subject’s face about an inch from the camera lens. Don’t back up!

(Don’t worry; the engine wasn’t running.)

Lexi in rearview camera

And here’s the idiot whose bright idea this was:

Jeff in rearview camera

The Ponce Chronicles (Part 18)

Emerging, blinking, from an alternate dimension.  

I do not sleep a wink on the plane from Ponce to Orlando. We land a half hour late in Orlando; our connection to Boston will be tight. Exiting the jetway, I ask the JetBlue agent where the flight to Boston is. She shrugs. “What gate is it at?” I try not to blow my stack like “Anger” in the movie Inside Out—while screaming inside, Why do you think I’m asking?— as she points to a monitor down to the left. We run to look. It’s at Gate 8. Where’s Gate 8? The opposite direction, of course. We sprint.

At the gate, boarding has completed. An agent with a clipboard says, “Carver and Palmer?” and waves us on. As we buckle in, I hear a couple of really loud clunks beneath us. Must be our leaden checked bags being hurled on by annoyed luggage handlers, I think. But nah, there’s no way our luggage will make this connection.

This flight from Orlando to Boston—oddly, given the number of flights cancelled because of the storm just two days ago—is not filled. We have room to stretch out a little, on opposite sides of the aisle. Doesn’t matter; I still can’t sleep.

The approach to Boston is unusually scenic. We fly right over Providence, and for the first time ever, I can pick out the campus of Brown University (my alma) below. Shortly after, we fly a lovely approach to Boston over the bay, circling to the north to line up for a southbound landing. It’s a perfect (but oversized) emulation of the standard general aviation traffic pattern, flying a downwind with a line of planes on final going by on the left, turning base above Beverly Airport, where Allysen (many years ago) took her first flying lesson with me in the back seat, and finally low and slow down the north shore to a perfect, if windy, landing at Logan. We are home.

Arrival BOS3_smAmazingly, our luggage is home, too. I can’t believe it when I see our two huge old suitcases on the carousel. Probably those loud clunks were our bags—tools and tree trunks and all—being thrown aboard.

Uber won’t connect on my phone, so we take a cab from a stand at the curb. Gazing at the snowy, gray, dreary, landscape, we can hardly believe we have just left the land of mosquitos and sunblock.

It will take several days before it feels real to be back in Boston (and to catch up on sleep).

We are amazed and grateful at what we accomplished in those two and a half weeks. If only we had been able to finish it all. But we didn’t, and so, soon, we are going to have to go back and do this all over again!

[And with that, we return you to Pushing a Snake Up a Hill, with its regular blog musings. To read The Ponce Chronicles straight through from beginning to end, here’s the complete adventure.]
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