Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Leaves Are Falling

Over the last week the weather has finally decided to become properly Fall-like and make the leaves come off the trees.

This should have happened weeks ago of course, but we've been baking in unseasonably warm weather and the trees have been spraying pollen like it's going out of fashion. Everyone and his dog has alergies and sales of anti-histamines have been through the roof.

But that has now become a thing of the past and as a result of this and the prevailing wind patterns my drive has been ankle deep in leaves for days. Action Was Called For.

So I spent an hour looking for the spout that turns my leaf blower into a leaf vacuum and chopper-upper, then another looking fruitlessly for the special bag needed to catch the leaves. I tried improvising a leaf bag from a plastic leaf bag1 but it proved to be infested with anti-handiman demons and promptly split. So it was back to a rake and stuffing the bags by hand.

I couldn't find the rake but decided to use a yardbroom instead to save another hour's searching

And eventually I ran out of bags so the job came to an end. I piled the bags on my grass verge and went inside to wash and groan in pain.

Overnight Hurricane Zelda blew in, damaged he fence and threw the bags all over the place, whereupon I think one was struck by a car. It looks like that from the humongous split in the bag anyway. I think I mentioned that I had no more leaf bags.

So that's alright then.

  1. A sort of oversized transparent ventilated trash bag left by the town government in the hope the residents will use them to clean up. Fat chance, when all they have to do is leave the leaves and let them blow into my drive or along my fence line

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tuesday Bloody Well Should Be Dead, Cat Stevens Notwithstanding

Looked out the window this morning prior to getting ready for work.

Recently bodge-repaired fence leaning drunkenly after weekend five-minute mini-gale had given it a damn good thrashing.

Plus: Snowing.

So that's alright then.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Yardwork, Chateau Stevie Style

So I decided on Sunday to stop buggering about and start doing the house-maintenance stuff that has needed doing for well over a year.

A Quick list: Paint the ceilings (two years overdue), Retile the upstairs bathroom (one year overdue but with excuse - the need to sort out the wall I let a builder install), tidy all the crap up that is making our house look like a hoarder's dream (ongoing), mow the front lawn and grass verge and put the sprinklers and hoses away.

Clearly, this heavy schedule called for a good breakfast so I went out looking for one. It took me an hour to find a diner that had a breakfast bar - the only option since every diner was so mobbed by inexplicable crowds of people a table or booth was out of the question unless I was willing to kill an hour waiting.

Breakfast had scarcely commenced when I noticed that part of the case of my beloved Casio PAG-40 chronometer c/w compass, barometer, altimeter and sundry other functions had broken away from the watch. So that was all right then.

After breakfast I nipped next door to the AT&T phone store and explained to the teenager manning the store that I was sick of my phone and weary beyond the will to live with the damned thing's informing me while I am listening to voice mail that I have an incoming call and that I need to press "accept" to interrupt my current call, only for it to lock the bloody screen which requires two separate key options to unlock, at which point the "accept" button becomes unresponsive to repeated pressings, resulting in the phone suffering increasing numbers of high-speed impacts with the nearest wall. The sales"man" then showed me the latest version of the very same phone I was attempting to crush in my hand to illustrate my rage. Another win for a company that has been in the business of communication for almost a century in one form or another.

Once home I dug out the weed whacker and attempted to load wire onto the spool. This spool is specially designed so that wire can be loaded without dismantling the spool to do it. One simply cuts a 3 foot length of wire, pushes it into the hole on one side of the spool until it jams inside the reel, at which point one presses the tabs to release the inner spool so the wire can be threaded out of the other hole. The inner spool is refitted and the wire pulled through until it is even on each side of the spool. One then attempts to turn the bump knob to wind the wire onto the spool. Eventually one gives up, removes the inner spool and winds the wire by hand and refits everything together (having found all the parts that got lost in the previous five minute battle to wind wire on a spool in a World Gone Mad) and Hey Pesto! Instant ready-to-whack tool!

Naturally the weed-whacker was feeling recalcitrant in the matter of starting and it took several minutes of pulling the string and chanting the Magic Start Words before the thing burst into ear-splitting life.

And so to the weeds growing from where the curbstones meet the tar, in which can be found many things dropped by my neighbors - beer cans, cigarette cartons, supersized soda cups etc. I simply allow the weed whacker to pick these up and sling them out into the middle of the road. I'd bag such garbage but, hey, I hate the neighbors for dropping it there in the first place. Yes, I know it is them since you ask.

Next up I filled the mower with oil (the kid does something with it that causes it to burn oil - I suspect she loads it too heavily - and I've had to tell her in plain terms that the mower should never "start smoking" (the indicator she uses that it is time to knock off for the day). Once the motor was not in danger of running on dry bearings I ran the mower over the grass and the various other things the neighbors left for me in the grass.

That done, it was time to collect the sprinklers and drain the hoses. Some people blow these out with compressed air but I just throw one end over either the pool deck railing or the kid's old treehouse monkeybars and pull it through until the whole hose has been elevated to about 6 feet or so. Works like a charm and fbleeps up my bad elbow in no time flat. I unbolted the timer and valve assembly from the sillcock, and nothing jammed or required even class one Worlds of Power to loosen. Everything was going well.

Too well, of course

I noted that the pool cover was drooping very low and threatening to tear through the eyelets used to secure it due to the eight of water on top of it. So job one would be to drain the cover, which is done by lobbing a hose into the middle of the pool cover, where the green soup can be reasonably expected to be the deepest, connecting the other end to the sillcock and running water through until no more air is seen bubbling out.

Sounds wrong, I know, but this is science at work and science often sounds wrong, looks unpleasant and smells disgusting.

Once the air is expelled from the hose and a continuous column of water can safely be assumed to exist inside the hosepipe, the sillcock is turned off and the hose disconnected from it, allowing backflow to start. One now has about ten seconds to get the hose end from where it is to the drainage are one has chosen before the clean water currently gushing all over the place (but mostly over oneself) from the hose turns into green or brown tinged reeking filth from the pool cover.

Provided one does not hold the end of the hose too high and allow the drainage to stop the miracle of the syphon will drain the water uphill over the rim of the pool, then down into the hostas and overflow into the neighbors driveway as planned. Gravity pulls the water form the high lagoon of filth to the low garden, and the molecular bonds of the water keep the column whole so that the weight of the water in the lower end is enough to draw the water up over the rim of the pool. The only way this can fail is if the uphill part of the journey exceeds about 36 feet or so, when a phenomenominuminom called Torricelli's Vacuum will stop science from working properly and save the neighbors from paddling through toxic reeking sludge to get to their cars.

The water level in the pool was abnormally low, which I'm hoping was due to evaporation and not a leak in the liner. We didn't open the pool this year and I haven't even looked at the liner in over 12 months. So I decided the best plan was to top off the water to relieve the tension on the tether points of the cover.

A good plan, and one that should have been simple in execution, but was complicated by the fact that the leaky "gun" on the end of the hose had stopped working completely.

I tried unscrewing it, but that was when I remembered that I had not been able to remove it last winter and had put off the job of trying until, well, now apparently.

I deployed Vise Grip pliers combined with Robogrip Pliers to grap the gun and the hose end and twisted with all my might to no effect. I went and got Mr Hacksaw from the basement and sawed a slot carefully in the gun at the point where the screw thread was (being careful not to go too deep for fear of dinging up the end of an expensive Goodyear rubber hose) and tried again, but it was no good. I even used Finesse.

"Finesse" is what I call each and every one of my hammers.

I belted the bejaysus out of that gun and derived much satisfaction thereby but gained no advantage in the removing it from the end of the hose stakes. I used my Leatherman tool to cut away the rubber cladding and by doing so liberate the shattered insides of the gun left by my use of Finesse.

There was nothing for it but to go back to basics and use fire.

I made what seemed like the thirty seventh trip to the basement that day and dug out Old Faithful, my Bernzomatic propane torch. Returning topside I could find no evidence whatsoever of the half dozen barbecue lighters we have that get underfoot at all other times a rummage through the kitchen drawers is called for.

Letting out a manly bleat of resignation I flopped down on the back steps and focused my eyes on Mrs Stevie's Wurlitzer Class Barbecue c/w electronic starter. A plan formed, and for once it didn't result in me running around with my clothing on fire while the neighbors stood round applauding. I lit the torch from the saucepan warmer ring, setting the torch to full roar as a safety measure as soon as it caught.

Since - in the outdoor light - the flame is invisible, I have found it efficacious to have some sort of cue that the torch jet is hot. Many wounds have been painfully suffered in the winning of this knowledge. The roar of the flame works well as an aide-memoire as long as no-one talks to me while I work.

Heating the remains of the gun with the torch eventually made the cheap zinc-based metal expand enough to allow me to unscrew it using the Vice Grips and Robogrip pliers, and to deploy the undamaged hose in topping off the pool again.

Pausing only to grip the still hot jet of the torch in my right hand and to use some carefully picked Class Fours as I hopped around the garden in the traditional Pain Reduction Dance of Non-Utility, I packed up and returned my manly tool might to the basement for the next time I'd need it.

Mrs Stevie returned home as I, glowing in the satisfaction of a Job Finally Done, was checking water levels and demanded to know why I hadn't fixed the loose palings in the cedar fence yet.