Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ah, the joys

I haven't blogged much about the Great Wasp War, but suffice it to say that when we returned from vacation, we had thousands of wasps that had made their nests under our eves. The battle has been long, but we have mostly prevailed - except for a few dozen wasps that persist in hanging out on our front door. Oh well, I suppose it's a great way to keep the Jehovah's Witnesses from coming 'round.

In addition, I have an unfortunate tendency to occasionally find scorpions in our kitchen sink. At least in a contained area they're easy to squish.

And tonight, Herbert the Rat Snake (he's definitely a Herbert and not a Nicodemus - sooo much easier to call him "Herbie" when I'm looking for him) was hanging out behind the feed bins in the back shed while I did night check. At least he kept to himself. However, I did request that he leave a note on the shed door with his whereabouts each evening so that I won't have to inspect the shed for his current location. We'll see how that works out.

Given these critters that we have, I'm wondering how everyone else feels about them. So for entertainment, there's a poll in the right column. But beware: I'm tracking the responses and will happily FedEx you whichever critter you select as your favorite. Trust me, I've got plenty to share. :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

How not to electrocute yourself

WARNING: If you are not competent to mess with your house's wiring, DON'T DO IT. Please find a nice, experienced electrician and pay them to do it for you. Trust me, it's not worth your life to mess with electrical stuff if you don't know what you're doing.

Having said that, we're by no means experts, but making wiring "safe" to work on is as simple as finding the breaker for the circuit you're working on and turning it off. Easy as pie. :)

Last weekend, we finally pulled down the overhead wiring run to the shed and the guest house. The plan is eventually to re-run the wiring underground when we build the new barn, which will be where the shed is currently located.

The problem: Dangling electrical lines supported by a rotted, leaning telephone pole. Definitely something we need to replace, and city code requires that we replace them underground.

Step 1/2 (not shown): Turn of breaker and test lines thoroughly to make sure you turned off the right one. Step 1: Disconnecting the lines from where attach to the house, under the eves of the hubby's workshop.

Step 2: Cut and disconnect wires from the shed. Bolt cutters can be helpful when you're cutting thick gauge copper wires.

Step 3 (also not shown): Pull down telephone pole. Step 4: Coil wires on the ground. Make sure Anie supervises.

The back looks much neater now that we don't have dangling power, telephone, and cable lines. Of course, we don't have electricity to either the shed or the guest house, but we aren't currently doing any work there. Once we have the barn design finalized, we'll be able to dig new trenches so we can run these utilities underground, but until then, we'll use extension cords if we need power in either of those locations.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I don't mind snakes. I rather like them actually.

But when I'm doing night check on all the critters at 10 p.m., I would really, really appreciate it if this particular snake could find a nice, quiet spot that is NOT IN THE SHED WHERE HE SCARED THE TAR OUT OF ME.

How about hanging out UNDER the shed. Please? At least until after I put everyone to bed.

Because otherwise the neighbors might start to wonder about the screaming.

(And no, I don't know if it's the same snake I saw back in May, but it's also a rat snake and is about the same size, so I would guess that it is. The hubby suggests that if he's a resident, we name him Herbert. I was thinking more along the lines of Nicodemus. Well at least I thought it was clever...)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mid-week kitteh

Because you can only look at so many pictures of drywall, new toilets, or tile being laid, tonight we shall take a break for cute kitties.

Freya has the most adorable habit of sleeping upside-down. Let me demonstrate:

I wonder if she wakes up with a crick in her neck?

Note the perfect front-paw curl.

Sometimes the choice of location leaves a bit to be desired... how exactly am I supposed to close the closet door without disturbing the kitty? (Answer: You don't close the closet door until the kitty moves. DUH.)

It is also apparently very important to fit yourself to your surroundings.

And for the finale, I give you the coveted streeetch. Try not to pet your screen.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Goodbye, outhouse. Helloooo new bathroom!

Our second bathroom is almost done! The toilet and sink are fully functional, and we just have the trim to install and some touch-up to do. OK, and we have to tile the entire shower, but that's for later. What's absolutely fantastic is that I no longer have to stagger to the other end of the house to use the toilet at 3 a.m. Let me tell you, that's a huge improvement!

I didn't take many pictures of the process because I was elbow-deep in paint and drywall texture for most of the time, but here's a few details.

When installing the drain in your sink, always use plumbing putty to ensure a tight seal. (Bonus: plumbing putty is really fun to play with!)

Epic kludge of plumbing. We had to be creative to get from the sink drain to the pipe coming out of the wall, which is in the lower left corner. However, it drains well and nothing leaks, so I'm not complaining!

The new dual-flush toilet. It took us quite a bit of adjusting to get the two flushes right, but it's pretty spiffy!

The vanity, installed, which is a minor miracle. The assembly instructions were ATROCIOUS, so we sort of made it up as we went along. We ended up with a handful of parts when we were done, which is a little... disconcerting. However, it seems to work just fine.

And the final touch, the mirrored medicine cabinet. We still have to install the chair rail (it'll go where the white line is in the picture), baseboards, and trim around the door and window, plus touch up the ceiling. Oh, and hang towel racks and such. But still, we're very close to being 100% done.

OK, 100% done except for the shower. But I'm ignoring that for now, because I have a functional toilet just steps from our bedroom. How civilized!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dangerous to horses: Silverleaf Nightshade

I am currently waging a war on a rather noxious weed common in central Texas called Silverleaf Nightshade.

It's a woody, herbaceous plant that grows about 2 feet tall, has purple flowers and spiny bits around the base of it's stem, and is toxic to sheep and cattle, and in an odd, roundabout way, horses.

These little seed pods, which turn yellow-orange when ripe, are of particular concern.

Interestingly, horses that eat the plant don't show adverse effects, although sheep and cattle do. The reaction occurs when a horse that's been eating the plant is wormed with Ivermectin - apparently the combination of the two develop a neurotoxin, and drooling, head pressing, and even death can occur. Eeek!

Fortunately, the boys don't eat it, but I don't want to chance them getting one of the seed pods by accident. Several years ago I boarded at a barn that got a load of hay that had nightshade in it; about that time a horse on the property died a rather horrible death. The autopsy was inconclusive, but I've always suspected the two were related.

Anywho, I have been diligently pulling the little (ok, big) buggers out of the back pasture, maybe 5 minutes per day for the last few days. They're apparently really hard to kill because they spread by their underground root system, which is extensive and deep. However, if I can prevent the seeds from spreading, and pull the big ones out of the ground consistently enough, I'll eventually get them under control. I hope.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Woohoo! I managed to single-handedly fix the shed!

Tonight I managed to fix the shed. More or less.

On the way home from work, I stopped at Lowe's to pick up a 2-ton floor jack. Using a jack was the only way I could figure to prop the shed roof enough to screw it back together. I rounded up a few 6 foot-ish 2x4s, some screws and the drill, and headed out back.

First, I propped up the edge of the roof with the jack and a 2x4. This was actually a fairly bad idea, because it was the only support the roof had once I jacked it off the panel that was supporting it. However, I tried to be as careful as possible and spent the least amount of time under the roof as I could, in case it fell.

Next, I propped a second support beam under the roof next to the middle post, since I decided it would be safest to screw the middle post back together first.

Here's the middle support beam after I've pried two of the three old nails out of the header (I couldn't get the last one out, but it wasn't in the way).

And here it is after I've screwed it together. I had a hard time pulling the beam and the post together to get the screws to bite while drilling at the same time, so there's more of a gap between the post and the beam than I'd like, but it's on there pretty solidly.

Next, I fixed the end post. The major problem here was that the post had moved to the right several inches and was no longer directly under the roof. In addition, the panel that was holding up the roof when it fell was actually preventing me from pushing the post back into place. So, I had to take the panels apart and rearrange them.

Here you can see just how far the post had moved from the beam. And bonus, nasty rusty nails!

After moving the jack support to just beside the corner post and getting the panel out of the way, I was able to push the post back into place under the beam.

Once the post was under the beam and I had screwed it all back together, I removed the support and volia! More or less repaired shed.

All done. Boys are back to snacking happily on their round bale, and the roof is more or less level. Let's just hope it stays together until we get the new barn built!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Yup, the hubby's out of town again

The hubby is often out of town, traveling for work. Inevitably, things break in catastrophic ways, but ONLY while he's out of town. Usually, it's worse when he's out of the country.

Yesterday, he left for a conference in the Dominican Republic. So, I just KNEW I was in for something. I figured that it would have to do with the plumbing we just installed on the second bathroom (more about that in another post). But it's turned out to be something else entirely.

So... we don't have a proper barn yet, and the boys make do with a run-in shed that's been (very poorly) built off the side of a Morton shed. The barn is in the planning stages - it's actually our next project - but as of today, a proper barn got nudged more firmly to the top of the priority list.

When I went out to feed the horses this morning, this is what I saw:

Not that the shed was ever particularly straight, but this seems to be listing a bit more to the left than absolutely necessary.

It turns out that the header was wrenched out of the support post. Fortunately, the header landed on the panel underneath it. Otherwise, this would have been a lot worse and it probably would have fallen ON one of the boys. Eeek!

Based on the way the nails pulled out of the post, I'm guessing that one of the boys was rubbing on it and just wrenched it loose. This is why you use screws in construction instead of nails, if possible. They are a lot harder to pull out!

The boys will be out in the pastures until tomorrow night, when I have a chance to fix this. I don't want to chance one of them hitting anything and getting hurt! As far as fixing it goes, I need to pick up a 2 ton floor jack. The plan is to get a 4x4 and cut it more or less to size, prop it up under the header that's fallen, then jack it up back to the correct position and screw it all back together.

Nothing a 2 ton floor jack, a handful of deck screws, an a little ingenuity can't fix.

And after I get it repaired, I will be calling the recommended barn manufacturer and getting quotes on the new barn. :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Chicken tile assistant

Last week while we were cutting tile for the floor of the second bathroom, one of the nuggets (younger chickens) decided to use the the hubby's tile saw as a roost instead of heading back to the coop for the evening. Fortunately for the nugget, we weren't actually using the saw when the nugget flapped up to perch, but we had to carry her back to the coop.

Something seems off in this picture. Last time I checked, chickens were not necessary for cutting tile.

Sleepy chickens are rather easy to handle. The nuggets are normally somewhat skittish, but we picked this one up from her erstwhile perch and escorted her back to the coop.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Cash's very own web page

My retired eventer, Cash, currently lives in the lap of luxury, at a wonderful facility in Paige, Texas, that caters only to retirees. He has 10 acres of coastal grass, his own swimming pond, and three buddies. He comes up for a daily hosing to cool off, and gets more cookies than any horse has a right to have (well, OK, he deserves them). He's pretty much got it made.

A couple of weeks ago, the facility owner asked me to send her Cash's story, so I wrote it up. Little did I know she would feature him on her web site! So, the story of my now-famous retired event pony is available on his very own web page!

Reading his story, I really think he's had a pretty good life... I only wish that his body had held up better for him because boy, did he love to work and love to compete. Saga's not the competitor that Cash was, and never will be. Cash is probably a once-in-a-lifetime horse... and boy, do I miss riding him.

Cash and I rocking a Training-level course at Waredaca, MD, in fall 1999. That fence is 3'3 with a 5'6 spread.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy Birthday, mutant dog!

This morning I realized that it's Elias's birthday tomorrow! Well, OK, since he's a pound puppy we don't actually know when he was born, but we got him in early November 2004 and the vet thought he was about 5 months old at the time. Count backwards five months from November and you get, more or less, July 4. So, Happy Birthday Elias!

Elias appears to be half Malamute and half, uh, something short-haired and slender, possibly a whippet or a greyhound. He's got the Malamute coloring and the double coat, although he's fairly short-haired. We call him our Malamutant, or our Texas Malamute - because if you're going to be a Malamute in Texas, you might as well have short hair.

Elias also has the Malamute propensity for singing.

A lot.

But only when he feels like it. Which unfortunately means that many people have never heard him sing. And well, it's sort of endearing, especially when he starts having conversations with you.

So without further ado, I give you Elias in "Howrooooooo!"

And just in case you don't feel like watching the video, I shall leave you with a cute mutant dog picture.

Dogart! I call this "Dog With Bone." A masterpiece for sure!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Lablet update

Every month since I turned in Reba, my service-puppy-in-training, for advanced training, I get an update of her progress. Today, I got her latest update. I haven't posted how she's doing before because I was afraid I'd somehow 'jinx' her, but at this point, I'm willing to take the chance!

Suffice it to say she hasn't been sent home for eating twist-ties, and is actually doing really well. So well, in fact, that "barring unforeseen circumstances," she will start Team Training (where she is placed with someone) August 1 and should graduate August 15! I don't know who she'll be placed with, but I'm so excited that she'll have a wonderful life as an assistance dog!

I am having a really proud mom moment, but I'm also missing her a lot today. I never really said goodbye to her, since I figured I'd either get her back if she didn't graduate, or say my farewells at graduation. Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend graduation, since I will be at my sister-in-law's wedding on the other side of the country. I do have friends who are going though, and have promised to take at least 10,000 pictures and 17 hours of video so I will get to see her.

Since I am missing her, I went back and looked at her Bone Voyage entry. One of my favorite photos of her was not included in that post - it's a picture that my coworker, a graphics designer and professional photographer, took one day while at work. She's maybe 8 months old in this picture, but it captures her so well.

Behold, the adorable Labrador. Which I think makes her Labradorable! "Baroo?" says Reba.

Reba's weekend mom suggested that we make a book of puppy pictures and give it to her new owner, which I think is a great idea (but I want a copy too!) I'm not sure if I'll get any other updates between now and the august graduation, but if I do, I'll post them here. Fingers crossed and send lots of good graduation thoughts Reba's way!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What show are YOU watching tonight?

Editor's note: Yes, I've been remiss in my blogging since returning from vacation. For those of you faithful readers (who knew that I actually had one!), I'll try to be more consistent with my writing.

This week, we've started working on the second bathroom again. So far, we've cut all the tile for the floor (although we will wait to actually lay it in until the walls are done), and I've started taping and floating tonight.

Tile in progress. No, the walls won't be that color green, that's just the color of mold-resistant drywall we used in the bathroom.

Recently, we got a shipment of books about remodeling homes from Taunton press. These books were a very kind gift from the hubby's uncle (I think that makes him my uncle-in-law), since he is an editor at one of the Taunton-owned magazines. Included in the shipment was a video on how to hang drywall. Apparently he heard about my membership to the Drywall Haters of America club and is trying to get me to revoke my membership. :)

Under the window in the bathroom. I'm sure the joint compound looks great from far away, but trust me, up close this looks anything but professional. Hence my membership in the Drywall Hater's club! :)

So here I sit on a perfectly good Thursday evening watching a show on how to hang drywall. Everyone else in the world is probably watching America's Got Talent or Iron Chef, but I'm watching drywall. I guess it's better than watching drywall mud dry...

First off, it is not fair that they can buy drywall in sheet sizes other than 4x8. Do you realize how much less taping and floating I'd have to do if we had bigger sheets??? Also, the drill those guys are using is soooooo much faster than our cordless models - it's actually a screw gun with a magnetic screw tip. The hubby, who is watching this too, says we are buying one of these when we do the addition and have to hang all the drywall for that. Now they are showing a drywall router that took them like 3 seconds to cut out an electrical outlet from the drywall. OMG it takes me probably 15-30 minutes to cut out a single wall outlet with a drywall saw. Add the router power tool to the WANT list. We also need a drywall rasp to shave the edges in case we don't get a cut quite right, which happens more often that I'd like to admit.

I would like to point out that these guys make hanging drywall look so easy and so fast that I think they are cheating. Where was this video when we started this house project 8 months ago???

And now I have just learned how to float interior corners without anguish. It involves PAPER tape instead of the adhesive fiberglass tape I've been using. The guys is also using a 14 inch beveled trowel instead of a 12 inch flat trowel and is making this look way, way too easy. It's not fair, I tell you, not fair at all!

Frankly I am not sure whether I should a) hate the guys on this video because they're so good, or b) invite them over to the house for some drywall assistance. I'm leaning toward option b.

Wall where the vanity will go. Looking at this, I definitely think option b is my best bet!

Tomorrow night I'll finish up the rest of the first coat on the bathroom and probably do some sanding. We're hoping to get the walls floated, textured, and painted by the end of the weekend so that we can lay in the flooring... and then, we can put in the vanity and the toilet and have a second functional bathroom! (Minus the shower, but who cares about the minor details like that?)