Friday, August 27, 2010

SCORE! Re-Store

Finally, some pictures of low to moderate success stories! I've discovered a new place to shop for discount home goods in town -- it's the Habitat for Humanity second-hand shop, called Re-Store. It's full of lots of donated goods from other people's remodels -- everything from sinks and bathtubs to light bulbs and bathtub caulk. They have a sale on office chairs for $5 right now, and if I could have fit a $15 couch into the back of Honda, I just might have done it. Here is the Hall Of Doors, as well as photos of the new stainless steel sink I got for the kitchenette. I went in search of a cool retro metal medicine cabinet, but decided to go with this oak one when I saw it. I'll keep it in the front bathroom, and put the fake oak one in the back bath, after painting it white to match all the other clean white things back there.

After getting a five dollar sink and a ten dollar medicine cabinet, I asked my refrigerator what it wanted to eat. Chocolate milk! my refrigerator said. That's weird, I thought, but had to oblige.

Speaking of Honda, I finally decided to go on the books as a Utah driver. Now that I own a house and all, I decided it was long past due to register my car. Two trips to the DMV, an obscene amount at the Honda Dealership and a can of WD-40 later, I got new Utah plates on little old Honda. The big question: which plate did I go with? Not that snooty skier, of course. I'll take earth-tone mountains over skier dude, any day.

Pipe dreams

This is my dream: I wish this pipe was the right pipe, and not the pipe that has a hole in the side of it for "draining the line" (isn't that what leaving the kitchen faucet running is for?) so that when I don't notice drain-hole, install New Pipe and then turn water on, all the water from the line wouldn't run continually out in a comically pee-like stream in my face in the basement. "I Love Lucy" has NOTHING on my home-improvement attempts when it comes to physical comedy.

If this pipe could arm-wrestle, I'd kick its pipey butt. Then I'd make it eat dirt -- basement dirt, the kind that gets ground into my knees and then I can't wash off my hands because I've turned off all the water to the house. A curse on you and all your pipe-like kin!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Good digs

August in Utah is out to kill: it bakes the earth in high 90s with full sun all day, every day, broken only by high winds and angry, stingy rainstorms. We had a doozy of a storm yesterday, complete with falling limbs and lots of trashcans and lawn furniture exchanged between neighbors. I was inside, trying to remind myself that getting nervous and worrying about my big pine trees squashing my house won't do anything to prevent said squashing. I spend some time looking out the windows at the tops of the trees blowing back and forth in cartoonishly wide swoops of their long piney branches. Then I turned up the radio and painted the closet, which is, by the way, the last thing that needed to happen in the re-done bedroom, besides the little nails being pounded into the baseboards to hold them into place, which is something Jason will do as soon as this inconvenient employment is over... honestly, doesn't this movie know that it's getting in the way of my home improvement? Oh, to be cursed with a boyfriend who is both artistic and handy... sigh. What more could I ask for?

This morning, the rain left the ground actually moist, cool, and perfect for digging. The temperature was also perfect -- at a high of 80 today, Utah has decided to give me some respite from the desert heat. Still, I started early: 7:30am found me with a shovel, starting in on a new track of dead lawn. After digging up the beds nearest the house and turning a strip along the sidewalk into a blueberry and tomato bed, I decided it was time to continue the garden patch along the flagstone walk to the drive.

There is nothing quite so much fun as digging in the dirt. I love digging up the old turf, especially - you cut the edges, wiggling the shovel under the turf from both sides, then slice it into manageable chunks, turning the patches of dead grass over to expose the root base, still full of good rich soil. The sun was still behind the neighbor's big tree when I got the point of raking the bottom of the turf to loosen the soil, shaking and shaking and thumping and shaking all the dirt out and tossing the dead clot of oldroots aside. Honestly, is there any happiness turning yucky old lawn into soft, silty earth, ready for planting with pretty things? But I get ahead of myself -- before I can plant, I started to turn the soil... and found that, like the other stretch of lawn I dug up, there is a layer of hardpack gravel and clayey earth about 8 inches below the good top soil. There is some perverse pleasure in searching out and prying up rocks the size of my fist, but around noon, I had to give it a break. There was this strange soreness in my side that I recognized from earlier in the summer: those are my digging muscles. I spent a day or two repenting this binge-like behavior before, wondering what I could have possibly done to deserve such punishment by lactic acid. Still, I thank my back for being a good back and only getting muscle sore, not pinchy owchy oopsy damaging spinal sore. I am old enough to know such things can happen to people who think they have indestructible backs. Still, there is always another rock to dig out, and such lovely weather, and as long as I am digging, I can't be expected to work on my school syllabi, which are quickly becoming unavoidable...

Here are some pictures of my yard so far. I love the blueberry bushes especially -- they are a lovely green against the dark mulch. Next year, the yew bushes will be fill out and the Russian sage will be sprawling into the pathway. The blueberries will be loaded and the hummingbirds (I saw one!) will zoom around the honey bees. The tall grasses will shade the porch and my rosemary will grow even bigger than the bush I had to leave behind at my old apartment. I'll plant the pear tree in the front yard for some shade, and it will magically only give me delicious fruits that don't fall and rot all over the yard. The tomatoes will do even better next year, when they get to be in the ground from the beginning of summer, although they're not too shabby this year -- look, aren't they beautiful? I love the actual plants -- I think I would grow tomato plants even if they didn't give any fruit. They're lush and hearty and brilliant.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Frosting the Cake from Hell, or Why Plumbing Sucks

To be fair, there are two separate issues at stake here: one is the drippy outdoor faucet, the other is the bathtub. Luckily, the two plumbing problems have not progressed to the point where they are connected. That would be bad.

The story of the outside faucet goes something like this: Faucet broke pipe broke other pipe. Spider in my pants. Install new pipe -- Maybe..? No. What if... No. Or... No. Or... yes! I AM AWESOME! No, I'm not. Damn. Damn damn. Jason? Yay! Ohhhh... Damn. There are metal shards in my foot. Home Depot, you suck.

If this one of those super fast moving videos where 16 hours of work is sped through in 2 minutes, what you would see would be me crawling in and out of the basement (THE most inconvenient part of the basement, too, where I have to scramble behind the furnace, climb the foundation embankment, and then scoot back on the raw dirt with two feet of total headroom) and then waving pipe wrenches around angrily and trying to turn things tighter and tighter when the new pipe dripped, and then Jason coming over and re-fixing my "fixed" pipe by taking it off and doing it all over again, only to find that it dripped WORSE! Let me repeat: Jason came to fix it, and it got worse. We both sat there and stared. Something was clearly amiss. Jason fixes things, not makes them worse. So we shut the water off one more time, took off the whole mess of new pipes, and discovered that Home Depot had sold me a faulty part! The stop valve was cracked - hence, the dripping. A week, a pile of dirty dishes, a whole roll of teflon tape, some very thirsty tomatoes and a lot of curse words later, I have found the source of the problem: shoddy Chinese manufacturing.

In between fighting with this drippy pipe and watching episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a good dose of witty and unpretentiously sappy girl-power, I talked myself into re-caulking the bathtub by myself. Again: to Home Depot. I purchased this stuff called Tub Surround. It came in a caulk-looking tube, and it included information about how to Surround Tubs. I was convinced I was on the right track, until (after prying off the old crappy tub strip, spraying lots of Clorox all over the years of funk growing back there and scraping it all off with what is proving to be rather stale elbow grease) I started squirting this Tub Surround all around the brand new, nicely cut and placed white strips. Not only did it come out in great globs of indeterminate consistency, it was GRAY. Having never caulked a tub before, I was not to be scared off. I squirted it all around the tub, and then tried to use the "one wet finger" technique to smooth the caulk. It was like frosting the cake from hell -- the more I tried to smooth, the stickier, lumpier, and more All Over The Place it got! I finally stopped, having covered all my hands, some of my feet, and the whole bathtub in gray goo.

Once again, I called in Jason: "That's the WORST caulk job I've ever seen!" said the expert, with a kind of respectful horror, the way you'd say, "wow, that's the worst case of sunburn I've ever seen," or "Wow, I've never seen anybody wreck a car quite THAT hard, so MANY times in a row!" I, however, was not amused. "At least it won't leak," he offered as consolation. It was true. There was way too much goo all over the tub to let any moisture through. I suggested that maybe it would turn white over night, as it dried? Jason was skeptical. He was right: it was just as dark and gray as ever. At this point, I turned my attention to the tube of offending caulk, only to realize upon closer inspection that it was not caulk at all... it was Construction Adhesive. It was for installing bathtubs and gluing them into place, not for caulking the cracks. I'd smeared heavy duty GLUE all over my bathtub! This was not fixing anything. This was creating a massive, gooey, gray MESS.

Despair ensued. I considered pitching a fit in Home Depot along with a lot of tears and fist shaking and scowling and waving around the tube that said TUB SURROUND and accusing it of false advertising, but then I realized that this would only emphasize my stupidity and so instead I took of ye ol' paint scraper and started a long and frustrating job of undoing the mess that I had made. This is some kind of life lesson, I am sure: messes are easier to make than they are to clean up. Eventually, however, I re-installed the new white strips, clean of Construction Adhesive, and re-caulked it with real white bathtub caulk that came in a little tube and behaved as desired when smoothed. Sort of. It was more like trying to frost an ornery toddler than the cake from hell, but everybody turned out all right, even the bathtub. This is a picture of the bathtub. Notice the lack of gray cement all around it. That's right. I'm awesome.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Desert Water Torture

Despite liberal application of the tried and true method "Ignore it and Hope It Gets Better," the outdoor faucet's drip has turned to a gush and is now a pretty much constantly hissing flow. For a few days, I have periodically moved the end of the hose around to the base of different plants, pretending like my plumbing malfunction is actually some kind of sophisticated drip irrigation system... but seeing the Water Meter Man walking around the neighborhood in his orange shirt and metal meter-picker-upper-to-reader pole reminded me that eventually I will have to pay for these indiscretions. Ironically, having hit the August blues, my motivation to fix any last darn thing in this house is all dried up. Let me emphasize that analogy: Leak is gush; motivation goes "uggghhh." It's kind of like the noise the rest of the faucets in the house now make when I try to turn them on, having found a simple solution to the outdoor leak: I turned off the water main to the whole house. Presto! No more leak. The side effects, however, will soon become unlivable. You see, I've gotten used to flushing the toilet and washing the dishes. In about 15 minutes, I will be forced to address this problem, for real. I do now know a thing or two about teflon tape, and I own a pipe wrench. For the next 15 minutes, however, I am going to enjoy a moment of blissful desert oblivion.