Saturday, July 31, 2010

Part 3! Insane sweat-a-thon!

When last I left you, I had just finished the actual clothesline posts.


Let's put those aside and take step out into the sweltering Texas sun. Weee...ugh.

Lately, we have been getting quite a bit of rain, so rather than like last summer when the average temp was in the billions, it's only in the millions this year. Never the less, it's still been a sweat fest.

I have been averaging about 2 shirts a day. That's two shirts completely soaked through with sweat. I'm not talking, "Oh look at my pits, they are all darkened with sweat; I can't go out in public like this!" No, I'm talking more like it appears as if I just jumped into a hot sweaty smelly pool, got out, then continued working without the benefit of cooling off. Nice image, huh?

So you ask, "But suburban man, why don't you do the manly thing and work shirtless?" Because suburban man suffers from what my brother used to call, "soap skin". Lily, easy to burn, neon bleach white skin. If I didn't have the tanned arms, I could rent myself out as the undead. But having the tanned arms only makes the contrast worse. When I take off my shirt, it's like ripping the wrapper off a signal flare, "Put your shirt back on!!!! I'm blinded!!"

So I keep my shirt on. My days of being a sun worshiper ended many years ago. I'm now a skin cancer free worshiper. :)


First, get one of these...


Post hole digger. Check.

I measured out from the fence as to where to dig the holes. Check.

Then I measured the distance between them. Check.

Then I dug. Check.

All proud of myself, after digging 2 1/2 feet down...


Twice. Double check.

I went to bed happy.

The next day, I had to water my plants. And as you can see from the post hole digger photo, the monster water tanks are right next to the holes.

Looking at the holes, all full of myself, admiring my handy work, I paused. Hmmm, something doesn't look right.

I thought to myself, "hmmm, deep holes, not line up". It couldn't be. I freaking measured the dang things...TWICE!!!

I drop my watering can, sprint inside, get a tape measure and sprint back outside.

Now, I'm my own worst critic. When ever I do any sort of project around the house, I go through a stage of self abuse. I want it to be perfect. I want no mistakes. I want it to shine as the best thing on the earth. I want people to look at it and say, "My god, you missed your calling; you should do this for a living and bestow your gift to the world!!". So as a result, I basically enter into constant self loathing swearfest when I think there is a problem.

So, while I'm sprinting back and forth to get the tape measure, the world slows down, I can't get the tape measure fast enough and I can't check for the possible mistake soon enough. So my mental process on the outside appears like this...

"!#$!#$%#%@!!!! I measured the @#$!#$ thing twice!!! @#$#$#@$ measuring tape must be WRONG!!!"

While, to me its more like...

"whyyyyyyy isssssssn't myyyy feeeeeeeeat mooooooving faaaaaasterrrrrr!!! Muuuuuust geeeeeeet taaaaaaaaaaaape meeeeeeeasurrrrrrrrrrrre!!!!"

I set out the tape measure for the first hole. Correct distance. I then turn my head to the right to check the second hole, which is about 12 feet from me.  I. Can. Tell. It's. Off!!!! UGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

To quote Nancy Kerrigan from the 1994 winter olympics just after she got hit in the knee by Jeff Gillooly, "WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!"
Well, neither am I an Olympic athlete nor was my knee at stake, but the anguish was similar...well, maybe not.

However, I could have crushed bricks with my hands, I was so PO'd.

When this happens, I get of this single mind, somewhat Hulk-like, "Get out way, me must dig or kill!!!"

I filled in the hole then dug the replacement. All the while, sweating off all my unsightly weight in the blazing sun.

So, now the second hole is dug, D*MN IT! I taught that freaking hole a lesson!!! Mess with me will you!!! No stinking hole will laugh at me!!! Hmmm, that last part was a little weird.

Breath in...breath out...

I needed to relax. I needed to kick back a little. What I needed was a drink!

Nothing better than after sweating out your brains on a hot summer day than  kicking back with a nice cool Gin and Tonic!

If you really want to learn the proper way to make the perfect Gin and Tonic, I highly suggest you read the book, "Cosmopolitan: A Bartender's Life", by Toby Cecchini.

The next day, I was of better mind and wanted to finish this thing. Or do quote from the movie "Tropic Thunder", "Let's do this!"

First step, make the concrete forms.

I ripped  8 2" piece of 1/4" wood into 1 1/2 foot lengths. Then shot them together with my brad gun...


Here is the end...


And the finished product..


This time I made sure of the placement and measurements.

At first I was going to anchor them with little stakes, but then I thought, dirt will do just fine. I just backfilled against the forms.


Remember I had to do everything twice.

Then I placed in the posts.


And put in the supports....


which I anchored with nails on the post and rebar in the ground...



Everything was ready now for the concrete. Or in my case: Quikrete.


I over bought a little, but in the near future I have to move my fence so I will need some for the new fence posts.

Here it is dry...


And the wet...


Harking back to my childhood,  which seemed to be filled with various instances of concrete and cement events, I remember that my dad would tell me, "you want the consistancy to be like peanut butter". I never looked at PB&J sandwiches the same way ever again.

But he was right. Not too soupy, not too dry. You want to be able to pick it up and make it into a wet ball that doesn't crumble apart.

And if all else fails, just follow the directions on the outside of the bag. ;)

I would have loved to take a picture of the process of filling the holes, however, I was doing this by myself so it's a bit tough to take pictures with Quickrete encrusted hands.

Just use your imagination.

So with holes filled, I now had to wait 24 hours for it to be completely dry.

The next day, with the concrete all dry, it was time to rig the lines.

I got a 100 foot run of cotton clothesline and these little babies...


Here's what they look like installed...


Rather than tying a knot, because knots fray, the little metal loop takes the wear and tear off the line itself. Plus, as the line slackens, which cotton line always does, it takes very little effort to cinch them back up with these clamps.

So with the lines installed, let's see if it matches my original 3D concept.


Real McCoy...


Not too bad, if I say so myself.

This whole ordeal was a lengthy, pricey ordeal. Would I ever do it again? I don't have to, I did it once. LOL Yeah, I would. Would I do anything differently? Actually, no. It matched exactly what I planned and designed.

The question now is: will it last? Only time will tell.

This whole thing took place, all together, about 2 weekends. Without the various screw ups, probably 1 1/2 weekends.

Cost: about 150 bucks all said and done. The wood was by and far the biggest expense.

Difficulty level: (on a scale from one to insane) I would say this was merely insane level. You need fairly good grasp of wood working skills. Need a basic knowledge of working with concrete and know how to plumb a vertical object. It's hot and heavy work. (I think I drank in the area of about 10 - 12 gallons of fluids during this whole ordeal). And I probably sweat off about 5 to 10 pounds of unsightly weight. :)

This is a very do-able project, but make sure you plan plan plan. First figure out what you want, then find a spot and finally, make it happen. :)

Well there is it. A clotheline. This is the last one on the list of my insane backyard projects that I had when I first started writing about this stuff way back when.

And no, this doesn't mean that this is the end of the blog. There is so much more to come. Look at everything up to this point as Backyard1.0 Next will be Backyard 2.0

The basics are done. Now I can start creating things that will add to the aesthetics and beauty of the yard.

What's next? Oh, so much more misery. LOL I have to chisel out our side walk that runs along the side of our garage. Construct two arbors. Put up two fences. Plus a host of other little things along the way.

I'm going to be playing around with the format of this blog and I will also be making a valiant effort at updating this crazy thing on a weekly basis. Probably Sundays or Mondays, not sure yet.

With that said, I leave you with the last photo from this little endevour.

Y'all take care and always remember: Green is Good.



'10 C + W

Monday, July 26, 2010

Clothesline of Death Part 2...

All right!  When last I left you, lightening struck, chopped down half a tree, fortune smiles on us, we have a spot for the clothesline!

Now that we are all caught up, I had to come up with a visual for my very Significant Other. She works better that way. So I whipped out my 3D program and threw this together.


That's what I was aiming for; let's see if I turned the magic of 3D tech into reality, shall we? (at least with my 3D, you don't need any funky glasses...or blue people)

And away we go!

With this idea floating around in my head, I first began googling to see if some other fool attempted something like this. One would think that, "sure, there have to be plenty of do-it-your selfers out there putting together clotheslines", right?


There were all sorts of clotheslines made from metal and a few attempts at wood, but all were, shall we say, lame. Let me say that again, LAME!

I COULD have made it from metal; I COULD have made it into a straight "T" type post, but each and everyone I saw, either looked cheap or like they would fall over in a mild breeze.

So, sticking to my cold war era birth mentality, I was going to make mine, not only from scratch, but to survive a direct nuclear strike! Or a handily lobbed water balloon.

Off to Home Desperate I went!

First the lumber. I first wanted to use 6X6 cedar posts, but after I saw the price and felt the weight of those monstrosities, I thought, "Hmm, 4X4's will do just fine". After all, I'm only wanting to build a clothesline, not a bunker. Right? RIGHT?

Here's the check list:

(2) 10' 4x4's cedar posts

(3) 8' 4x4's cedar posts

(2) 10"x3/8" galvanized nuts and bolts

(4) 8"x3/8 galvanized nuts and bolts

(4) 6"x3/8" galvanized nuts and bolts.

And a smattering of galvanized washers to go along.

With wood, nuts and bolts in hand...hmm, that's sounds a little obscene...I rocketed home.

Since my very SO is of the vertically challenged variety, the lines themselves had to be at a height where she could, you know, reach them. We decided that the lines should be about 5 1/2 feet off the ground.

Figuring the height plus the depth by which I have to sink these bad boys and how much I want to have for the top post, 2 1/2 feet down should work swimmingly.

So 5 1/2 feet + 2 1/2 feet = 8 feet. That would leave a 2 foot peak. Should look rather nice. :)

So with all the measuring done, it's now time to make them.

First the notches.

I ripped these with a skill saw, since I don't have a huge table saw or a dado blade. Sorry, John (My friend John, he's an amazing carpenter. He and I had, just a week before, a short chat about the dangers of using a skill saw for anything at all.) I like to live on the edge. Heck, why were we given 10 fingers if we were meant to keep them all, right?

Next on to the chiseling.

Not knowing any other way to clear out the notches, I did it the old fashion way. Hammer and chisel.

With that done, I needed to make up the cross bars.

I took one of the 8 foot 4x4's and cut it in half. Measured to the middle, then out from the middle, 1 3/4 inches on either side (4x4's aren't exactly 4x4. Always measure twice and cut once, as the old saying goes), set my marks, ripped and chiseled.

Here's what it looked like fitted together...

At this point, I was hoping no Jehovah's Witnesses wandered by.

I can only imagine that conversation.

Them: Building crosses are we?

Me: um, what? oh no, heh heh, just a clothesline.

Them: Well, you know someone died on a cross for you sins...

Me: I'm sorry to hear that, but I'm only hoping to brighten some sheets!


Next, the supports.

Cutting the other two 8 foot 4x4's in half, then putting a 45 degree angle on each end...
 (thank you Mr. Toes)
I hacked them off! No, not the toes!

And fit the whole mess together.

Not too shabby, huh?

Putting the bolts through the cross was a breeze, but through the angled supports, proved to be, oh how shall I say this, freaking dangerous. LOL

The hole drilling part wasn't a problem, it was the part of flaring out the holes so a nut could fit on the end of the bolt.

In the end, I wound up using a 1 1/2" one of these...
prepping holes
(a flash back photo from when I made the stand for my composter).

Holes drilled, ends flared out, this is the result...

This was a harrowing ordeal, which I never ever hope to repeat again in this life- time. I truly welcome any better suggestions from my whole readership of 5 1/2 people.

Now with all the "construction type holes" drilled and everything bolted together...

I needed to put in the hooks for the clothesline...
(Mr. Toes make another guest appearance)
(8) 8"x 3/8" hooks. Why 8 inches? Because the 6 inch versions didn't have enough thread on them. A real design pain.

So drill, drill, drill, etc, washer, washer, washer, etc, bolt, bolt, bolt, etc...

So now they were ready. Mind you I had to do all this mess to two of these dealies.

Oh, how did I figure out how to space them? Frankly, I just sort of winged it. I just spaced them evenly apart enough to when a wind blows, and if there happens to be sheets on the line, they won't really get into each others stuff.

Well, that's enough for tonight.

Next up: Part 3! Insane sweat-a-thon! Wee...

But before I go, I will leave you with a few pics of things from our garden!

And remember, as always, say it with me now! Green is Good!




Monday, July 19, 2010

What the heck was that?? Part 1

I know, I know, where the heck have I been?

I've been sweating my *ss off in the blistering Texas heat. Long ago, when I first started this running account of my insane attempt at making over our backyard, I posted a really bad (before I knew what I was doing) panoramic shot of my back yard, with virtually invisable green arrows pointing out what I planned on doing in my yard.

Mr. Peabody: Let's take a quick trip in the wayback machine, shall we Sherman?

Sherman: We don't need the wayback machine, Mr. Peabody, we can just look at the photos.

Mr. Peabody: Shut up, you!

So here it is...


Attractive, huh?

You can see the old white and green shed, but more so, you can see the old clothesline attached to it.  The other end is attached to our retired neighbor. He likes to help. He swears he doesn't mind standing there all day long.


Since we are of the tightwad sect, we choose to air our laundry as much as possible. Wait! that's DRY, dry our laundry as much as possible. We could use our energy star rated dryer (well la de da!) of course but staying with our tight-waddiness (okay, we're trying to decrease our carbon footprint), we choose not to use it as much as possible.

Finally, our retired neighbor got tired of standing all day (liar!), so I had to come up with something better.

The process was supposed to go like this: root cellar, move the shed, then build the clothesline. Well. the root cellar ate my lunch. I filled in that hole, moved the shed, remember that?


Believe me, I do. I have the scars to prove it.

So, now I had to put up the clothesline or I would suffer a beating from my Significant Other.  While  figuring out where to place it, the universe intervened.

Here's our backyard from a slightly different angle.


Notice, if you will, a beautiful shade tree right behind the shed in our neighbors yard.

A truly magnificent creature. We thought, well, since it does cast a huge shadow for about half the day into our yard, we will have to position the clothesline a bit further away from the fence. No big deal.

 While the idea and concept of the clothesline danced in my head one night, a massive thunder and lightening storm rolled through. I briefly wrote about it here...

"May 19th, 2010
However, I didn't have to wait long. That night a massive storm rolled in around 1:30 am. It arrived with what I would like to call an artillery shell right in our backyard. The clap of thunder was so loud, not only did it wake us out of dead sleep but it shook the whole house. It was one of those storms. The kind where I keep one ear open to gauge the sound of the wind. There is that certain sound the wind takes on when it goes from, "oh, this is a fun intense storm", to "holy crap! Run for shelter!". It got close a few times."

Well, we didn't know how close it really got until a few days later. While out in the yard we were looking over at that part of the fence and our neighbors beautiful tree looked...odd. It was hanging awfully low...


Yeah, I know. This tree is like 25 feet from our bedroom. LOL Oh and that black stuff? That's where it was burnt. That artillery shell I wrote about above, was indeed a lightening strike. It just about split the tree in half.
I was really sad. I loved that tree.

The neighbor is a really nice young lady. She was at a loss as to what to do, so being the good neighbors we are, we cut down the damaged limbs and sealed the cut areas.

It's a strong tree, I think it will survive. I hope so. We took the wood as "payment'. :)

Out of bad came some good. That particular missing area of the tree opened up the sky for our clothesline. Go figure?

I have prattled on enough for today.

Tomorrow: Part 2 the clothesline of death. (It just sounds better).

Remember: Green is Good!