Archive | April, 2012

Secret Garden

30 Apr

This weekend Corinne went to Atlantic City with her Mom and her sister, so I decided I’d do a little surprise project so she’d have something neat to come home to. As we posted about before, the area by the front door was a real mess, so we cut down all the bushes. I decided this is what I would tackle.

My first order of business was to load up on mulch, I did this first because I wanted to make sure I got there while they were still open. Eventually I wound up at Big Valley, where I got 1.5 cubic yards of black mulch.

If you have a truck, this can be a much more economical way to purchase mulch. It also helps to be able to pull the truck right up to where you going to use it. I then commenced the back breaking process of getting all the rest of the roots out of the ground and turning all the soil to a depth of about 8 inches.

Then I dug a big hole to accommodate the tub for the best part of my project, the water feature!

Next I dropped the tub in place and tweaked the hole until the tub was level.

Once that was settled, I raked out the dirt so it was even and graded properly to have a gentle slope away from the house, and then it should have been time to lay down the mulch.


However, I knew that when the first weed grew I’d hear how I should have put down landscape fabric. So I did. Now when the weeds pop up I can say, “Hey, I put down landscape fabric, what do you want from me!?”


Ah yes, mulch, finally. It was starting to come together. Next up was to decorate the water feature so it didn’t just look like a plastic tub. I got some slate tiles and dug up a few rocks to surround it.

Last year we had gotten a little fountain kit in a bucket and I finally got to put it to use. The kit came with a pump and a stack of bluestone pieces with a hole through the middle. I set that in the middle of the tub on a few bricks to get it to the right height for the intended water level. Then it was time to fill ‘er up!

Once it was full I tested the pump, set in the underwater light I got, and ran the wires for both. I also added another decorative rock and a few flowers. We intend to add a little more plant life, but for now it’s a pretty huge improvement over what we started with.

To say that Corinne was surprised is an understatement. I heard the car pull up and I’m just glad she remembered to put it in park before she jumped out! She was ecstatic! We finally have our very own water feature and a little curb appeal to boot!


Not the best shot, it's tough to get a picture of this thing with the lighting not being too harsh.


A view at dusk with the lights on


Fully Involved

29 Apr


I’m diving pretty deep into the lawn tractor to find out why it’s not starting. So far I’ve removed the hood, the air cleaner, the fuel pump, the shifter cover and the fan shroud to try to access the starter. Now I just need to get my hands on a couple fuses so I can see what happens when I turn the key. The starter gear doesn’t seem to be engaging the flywheel, so now I can actually watch it… But I guess I blew the fuse from trying too many times. There also looks to be a fusible link which may have melted so that could be trouble!

Small Engine Repair

25 Apr

Last weekend when we tried to mow the lawn, I went against all good judgement and used gas that I knew was most likely bad from sitting out all winter into the lawn tractor. And it was. It started running like crap instantly. So then I proceeded to drain the gas tank and the gas tanks of all our small power equipment into our largest gas can.

Getting rid of bad gas is a tricky proposal, as it turns out. Finally I asked our mechanic if he knew what to do with it, and he told me he could take the gas for me in his waste tank. They have a Safety Kleen contract to deal with waste fluids from oil changes and other mechanical work.

Anyway, once I had an empty gas can, I was able to fill up with new, 93 Octane gas. The leaf blower actually requires 91, but I figured the 93 would help everything run a little better if they had any residual bad gas in their fuel systems. So I took the 1.5 gallon can and put in Sta-Bil fuel stabilizer and Echo oil mix and mixed the fuel. I then put some fuel in the weed whacker and the leaf blower, pumped the primers, and luckily they both started pretty easily. I let them run for about 5 minutes and they both sound like they are ready to work!


I put a little pure gas in the lawn tractor, pushed it out of the garage, and tried to start it. Nothing. Didn’t make a sound when I turned the key. I had forgotten to plug in the Battery Tender, and I had tried to start the tractor a bunch of times when I had put the bad gas in, so after checking out a few things I got out the meter and saw that the battery was only reading 2.5 volts. It really should be 12 or 14, so i’m hoping when the battery charges up it will start.

My last task was to see if I could get the old Stihl chainsaw, that Corinne’s dad gave us, working. I have never gotten this chainsaw to start before. I pulled the spark plug, cleaned all the gunk of it, and tested it by grounding out the body of the plug on the metal of the motor and pulling the string. I saw a spark, so I knew that aspect of the fuel/air/spark equation was good. Next was the fuel, so I poured in some of the mixed fuel and brought the saw outside to try to start it. I put the saw on the ground and gave a few pulls. After the fifth or sixth pull it sounded a little close. Then I realized the throttle has a feature where it can be pinned a full throttle for starting, AND I realized I hadn’t turned on the choke. After I did that it started in about three pulls! I quickly released the throttle, revved it a few times, and it was able to hold a decent idle.


Unfortunately, now that I’ve got the engine issue sorted out, there is another issue I have to deal with. There is a nut that tightens down the bar (the thing that the chain rides on), and the cover and the stud has stripped out the aluminum casing of the saw. Due to this the bar is all loose and floppy and won’t stay in place. If it were even possible to use in this state it would be dangerous. I’m hoping the stripped out hole will be able to repaired by drilling out the hole to a bigger size and tapping it for a Heli-Coil insert. I’m going to hopefully find out if this will work by talking to the same mechanic who took the bad fuel off our hands.

So long, Bandit

24 Apr

Bandit - Germany

Today was a sad day at Titus Road, because the garage no longer houses “Bandit”, our 2008 BMW 135i.

He’s moved on to a new owner, and he will be sorely missed, but the memories (soon to be chronicled in an EXTENSIVE post I’m working on) will live on. This car, despite the precious few miles we put on it, was a big part of our life and it probably hurts more than it should to have to let him go, I can attest that I may have been more than a little misty this morning after Corinne and I took one last spin. He really has been part of so many great memories for us, and the source of lots of joy, so we’ll miss him… a lot. We had a little German dinner tonight in his honor, just like we did the day we picked him up.
For someone who does not make seven figures, this really is one of the ultimate cars you can get from a performance and fun-to-drive perspective, but he really was so much more to us than a fast car, and I realized on the drive to his new home that as much as I will miss the car, it’s really the memories I have such strong feelings for, and they’re ours to keep and they will live on in our hearts, and in our photo albums and stories forever.

Bandit - Montauk

Stay tuned for the history of “Bandit”

Spring Cleaning

22 Apr

We started the day off with a nice brunch at Rothman’s Steakhouse for my Mom’s birthday, and it was a great time. After that we had the rest of the day free, which would have been a great time for some yard work or deck work, but the rain made that a no-go.
So we really wanted to curl up on the couch and watch some movies… BUT, instead we decided we were due for a thorough cleaning of the house. Not an especially fun way to spend the afternoon, but we’ve been a little lax on the housekeeping since we got back from the Bahamas so it was time to face the music. Vacuuming, scrubbing, windex, scrubbing bubbles, Barkeeper’s friend, Ajax, dusters, we had it all going. We did a pretty good job, I think, so while the plants got something to drink, our house got nice and squeaky clean!

Inspection Passed!

20 Apr

I had made an appointment for 11:00 AM for the inspection and they made a big point of how the appointment was AT eleven, so when 11:30 came around, and the guy hadn’t shown up, I decided I should check up on things to make sure I hadn’t made a mistake. They apologized and said there was a little miscommunication but he would be there in 5 minutes. So he did show up and headed straight to the backyard.

He remarked how it had been a long time since he had been by, and asked me for a copy of the plans. He looked around and did a little tight walk act and walked all over the deck looking around. He was mostly pleased with our work with a few caveats…

One thing he asked us to do was to add more hurricane ties to the header that is farthest from the house for uplift prevention. So we’ll have to add those on every other joist, not a huge deal but a bit of work because it’s a little tight working in there with the 12-inch spacing.

The other issue we have to deal with is that we came up a little short on one part of the double headers, and we added on a little piece to fill in the gap. He wasn’t too happy with that so he asked us to sister up that header with another 2×12 for a few feet to support the corner of the deck a little better.

He also mentioned that we need to make sure that our stair stringers land on solid masonry, not dirt, and that the landings should also be masonry so that the rise can’t change as the earth settles.

He also told us to keep in mind the stair rise spacing from the deck to the level of the existing porch. Apparently stair spacing is a big part of the building code, so we’ll be sure nobody has to lift their feet more than 8.25 inches on our deck.

The inspector was kind enough to make these suggestions and leave it to us to take care of them, instead of requesting another inspection before we proceed. So, we’ve reached the next step – we can move on with the decking! Our next inspection is the final inspection, so we’re on our own ’til then.

Inspection #2

19 Apr

We finally have our second deck inspection scheduled for tomorrow. This is the structural inspection that looks at how the structure is built and how it is tied in to the house. Once that is approved we can proceed with the actual decking. The next inspection after that would be the final inspection after the deck, stairs and railings are all complete. And then when that is approved we should receive our Certificate of Occupancy. I’ve been running around tying up lose ends so there’s nothing to catch the inspectors attention about anything unrelated to the deck. Hopefully everything will be OK and we can proceed with purchasing the decking material and get to laying it all down.

Too Crowded

16 Apr

We were trying to clean up the front yard a bit when we stopped and looked at the front of the house and said, “What can we do with all of these bushes?”
The bushes by the front door are out of hand and they’ve never really been taken care of, so they’re all grown into each other to the point where you can’t cut them back at all because they’re all bare underneath. It’s not a great look, just a bunch of mismatched, overgrown bushes.


We decided that the only solution for these bushes, like most of the other ones on the property, was to get rid of them. They were too far gone and not worth the effort it would take to make them nice again. Plus, we want to put our own touches on the house, so we started choppin’! Four of the bushes in particular had very substantial root systems and I really had a hell of the time digging and cutting them out with an axe. I really beat myself up a little but we did get them out. So now we’re left basically with a big dirt area.

We’re not going to go too nuts with this area, probably just a bunch of mulch and a few plants.. At least it neatens up the entrance a bit!

Shed behind

15 Apr

Our neighbors behind us had an old shed that was slightly damaged in the hurricane, but more from years of being in the shade, as it had a good layer of moss on the roof, so I’m sure it had some good rot going on. Our current shed in the far corner of our yard is in similar condition but a replacement may be on the horizon.

So one day I came home from work early and there was a noise that I could not figure out emanating from somewhere nearby. Finally I went to the bathroom, and I could see that a couple guys were going at the old shed with Sawzalls.


I figured they decided that they just didn’t want to look at it anymore, and it wasn’t too pretty from our side either so it seemed fine with us too. The only problem, we soon realized, was that their shed had provided a perfect privacy screen between their rear deck and our soon-to-be rear deck. Luckily, this concern was short lived as a few days later framing began on a new shed.


The roof on this one appears to be a little taller, it’s actually a decent size building, so we really should not have to worry about seeing past it. This view really gives a good idea of what view it will be blocking.


Initially, for about a month anyway, the back of the shed was very unfinished looking, and the difference between the different T1-11 panels was very apparent and not very good looking, but finally they came back and did some finish work and trim and now it is pretty clean and neat looking.


Speaking of clean and neat looking, I wonder if they always intended to rebuild their shed or if they were unhappy with the view that removing the old shed revealed, since they now had a straight view of our unfinished deck and yet-to-be resided exterior where we installed the new sliding door!

Weber Delivery Complete!

14 Apr

No sooner than I published that post this morning did another box arrive at our door step!

It contains the entire Lid Bale assembly, which the melted parts are part of. That flat metal piece you see in the box was also warped a bit so it’s nice to have a replacement for that as well. The Lid Bale is basically a place to put the hot lid when you remove it to tend to the food on the grill so you can have your hands free and not put the hot lid down on something it could damage.

If you notice in the picture, on the outside label of the box it says “Happy Grilling!”



It will be happy grilling once our grill is in Tip-Top shape again thanks to the kind folks in Shaumburg, Illinois!

Just to keep the content flowing and for posterity I’ll probably post an update when I actually do the install.