sailing the NorSea


WEEK 2 2011

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Saturday 15 January 2011
Saturday - Well, still up in Martinez. I am too lazy to hook up the PDA as a modem, so am not updating as regularly as usual (if 'regular' is the right word). But since I was sitting here with my morning coffee....

I didn't get everything I wanted done here (surprise, surprise), and I've a couple days grace from work it seems, so I'm going to hang around just a big more.. Though the boss called sometime last night, and said I need to call him back.

Todays plan: more clearing and grubbing under the house.

Book #8 was Kris Longknife #7: Undaunted.

Sometime in the last couple of days I also primed the closet and damaged ceiling the the den. I also hit a few spots in the master bedroom where the blue paint was showing through. Even Bin Zinsser can't cover everything in one coat!

Update: Just for the record, here is an image from this afternoon with a few of the utilities on it - there are more, including a bunch I haven't even looked at yet, further back in the debris field, and of course the bunch of stuff I've pulled out already isn't visible. The presence of the live 230Vac circuit - with bare copper wire at the end - shows why it's such a slow process. One really really really doesn't want to be crawling around under there and brush against this!

house utilility lines

Friday 14 January 2011
Friday - finally getting to the tasks I intended to do, retaining walls and floor supports under the house. I am still clearing out down there - there are about 90 years of old plumbing and wiring and debris scattered about, making access difficult. So I am filling the old wheelbarrow with the junk and putting it in the side yard. I brought up the Sawz-All, so I can cut the long chunks of defunct plumbing into manageable sizes, and remove them for access. What a mess.

It's ugly, the support posts are 4x4's, nailed to the beams, and just sitting on the concrete blocks. To make the downstairs rooms someone cut away the earth near the foundation blocks, and some have started to move. Looking at things I see that there are essentially three beams holdings up the joists, these being 4x4's themselves, and running longitudinally under the house (north-south). About half the support posts are missing. Some are leaning, some have foundation blocks that are moving, or likely to move. Some posts have earth piled up against them.

The rear wall to the utility room is a wood retaining wall, against earth, and has moved in several inches, to where it is now pushing on the water heater. This side wall, also wooded, has buckled in the middle.

The southwest corner of the house foundation was undermined by about a foot, to put in a small (abandoned) bathroom. This is where the water pipe comes in.

It's a mess.

Book #7 was Kris Longknife #6: Intrepid.

These aren't 'deep' books, but are easy to read when you are tired. And some of the innumerable 'coincidences' are beginning to be explained as behind the scenes maneuvering by various high ranking individuals. Generally the books involve travel to a planet, then a pitched battle between our heroine and some local evil forces. The marines win, every time. Sometimes there is a space battle.

I forgot to bring entertainment with me. There is the PDA, and the Kindle, and they are making the evenings a little less grim. I'm pretty beat by 6:00pm, and moving all the rock, concrete, and earth is leaving me a bit sore.

Thursday 13 January 2011

Thursday - So, instead of working on the foundation I worked on the plumbing. This was sort of a problem. If I had tools I'd just cut the galvanized and rethread with a new piece. But I don't have my father's tools, so I was reduced to finding the couplers upstream and downstream and trying to remove the piece entire. That didn't work. The couplers were frozen and I had only a couple 12" pipe wrenches. If I twisted the pipe it was likely to fail somewhere upstream, perhaps buried anywhere from 1' to 6' deep where it dives down to the sidewalk. The downstream (house) side was only a couple feet away, where it went from galvanized to the copper at the house foundation, and that, with help of a torch to warm the bolt at the joint, went OK. But the downstream coupler wouldn't budge.

Eventually I just put some of the metal putty and a fiberglass bandage on it. It's a temporary patch, until I can get tools to do a real repair. Perhaps I'll turn off the water when I head south. No one is living there, so it's not a big deal. The bandaid seems to be holding, but one never knows...

I'll also put a shutoff in the line there I think. The shutoff at the meter is very stiff, and requires a pipe wrench and a grown mans strength to turn, the prospective tenants need something a little easier to access in the case of an emergency.

I guess this was a bit of a mixed blessing. The pipe was ready to go, and would probably have failed with the tree's next growth spurt this spring, probably when nobody was around, and caused a huge mess.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Wednesday - I started placing some more landscape blocks in the front yard. It is supposed to rain tomorrow, so I figured I'd do the outside work, then work under the house tomorrow.

This effort is a low terrace wall, that will delineate the front yard from the side yard. I bought thirty of the blocks at Home Depot and brought them back in the Explorer. I found a piece of plywood that fits just right in the Explorer, so damage to the vehicle is avoided. Also I noticed that the blocks weigh in at 23# each, so that makes 690# of blocks total. For some reason I had thought they were 17#, but 23# is more what they always felt like. I had sand left from the sandbags that kept the tarp on the roof last year, so that was useful for bedding the blocks.

It all went well, since the earth is soft. I went carefully, making sure to avoid the drain and water pipe I knew were present. At the house corner there is a 'volunteer' Acacia tree. It had been partially cut down last fall, but there were shoots coming out of it again. I wrapped it in dark plastic, and began digging at the roots. As I pulled on it and a leftover fence post stump I saw water bubbling out of the ground. Yikes.

It turns out there was another water line there, buried only a couple of inches, with Acacia roots wrapped around it. Old galvanized pipe, brittle and corroded, it broke easily - and from the void in the earth there might have been seeping/leaking for some time. Bah. Since it was 4:30pm and getting dark (naturally) all I could do was shut off the water at the street and wait for the next day.

Book #6 was Kris Longknife #5: Audacious.

Tuesday 11 January 2011
Tuesday - I started cleaning downstairs, but spent most the the day in San Francisco, visiting the Steinhart Aquarium with a friends daughter. She had a membership card, so I got in free. What an amazing place! I probably haven't been there since the late 1970's - it has changed a lot, and for the better! I dropped off presents from here grandmother & parents, and we had a nice lunch at a place she knew near her apartment.

Monday 10 January 2011

Monday -  Rain is predicted for Tuesday and Wednesday, so I decided to do the remaining room repairs. These consist of a small overhanging eave that needed to be re-shingled, and the gap between the shingles and the house that needed filling. Indeed, there as a hole through the stucco about six inches square. I am not sure if this was original, or perhaps a patch that fell out. In any case I used quick setting mortar for patching the larger holes and gaps, and a nice caulk for the smaller gaps. I also re shingled with the same shingles as used on the main portion of the roof.

All this was done with a long rope tied to the pepper tree in the back yard and looped as a safety line around myself. It's a long ways down...

This took over eight hours, hard to believe, but it did.

In the evening I went started cleaning and patching the master bedroom closet. I had thought someone else had already painted it, but not so. I was simply fooled by a newer (not new) coat of paint, which on inspection appears to be a Navajo White color, liberally stained with tobacco smoke. TSP and elbow grease for the stains, filler for small holes and cracks in the plaster.

Book #5 was Kris Longknife #4: Resolute.

Sunday 9 January 2011

Sunday - Went over to the new Lowe's, in Concord off Solano Way. I'd never been there, overshot it on the freeway, and had to drive back through Concord side streets. I was looking for railroad ties, which the Lancaster store has, but didn't see any. I did pick up some bags of concrete, ten of them, and brought them home. Six hundred pounds, but it's probably just enough for a foundation in the utility room. I also picked up a short handled shovel - it's close quarters in there.

Picture of the Week

snowfall for the new year
Photo Notes: A snowfall in Lancaster, Jan 2, 2011.

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