Friday, July 25, 2014

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors- Part 2

Don't Please Fence Me In

What!? The fence we have been talking about for two years is finally DONE!? Indeed it is! When I left off after my last post, we had spent an entire day digging holes and prying huge rocks out of the ground, and we were exhausted and crabby.  But we were motivated to get it done, so we hiked up our big kid pants and got back to work.

The next step was to set the posts in the holes.  All of the videos we had watched beforehand suggested using 1-2 bags of concrete per hole, but as we got going, we discovered that we really had to use at least 4 bags per hole, which meant a return trip to the store for more concrete mix. We used the quick set stuff that you can mix right in the hole (basically just add water  and poke it with a stick!), and it sets in 20-30 minutes and is ready for light foot traffic in 8 hours (which is irrelevant here, since we weren't planning to walk on it anyway).  And true to claim, it sets FAST. As in, we had to make sure the posts were exactly in the right place and perfectly level, because once the water got mixed in, it firmed up almost immediately.

It took us several hours to do the posts, and we let the concrete firm up overnight to make sure it was solid before we put up the rails.

Unfortunately the neighbors came back from their camping trip on Sunday, so we've been working under their watchful glares all week.  If you look closely, you can see their falling down, poorly (drunkenly?) installed chain link fence, from which their unruly dogs have escaped on multiple occasions.

Anyway, the next step was to cut the posts to all the same height and put up the rails.  For the 6' part of the fence we used 14' 2x4's cut down to span 2 6' sections, and in the front for the 4' part, we used 8' boards.  Since I had to go to a meeting one afternoon, Lance recruited a nephew to help with the front section and when I got home I was pretty excited to see how much they'd gotten done.

FINALLY yesterday it was time to put up the pickets.  It took us several trips to Menard's over the past couple of days to pick up all that we needed (110 of the 4' ones and 220 of the 6' ones) and we had to dig through a LOT of piles of wood to find enough pieces that weren't split or warped.  We finished the 4' tall section last night and were expecting the backyard to take most of today, but we were surprised to find that once we got into a rhythm, we were able to work really quickly and the whole backyard was done by a little bit past noon.  Unfortunately it was raining today, so while that kept us cooler, it also meant that the wood was soaking wet and we were covered in mud.

And here is the final result:

We still have plenty of work to do, like build a gate for this space so that we can easily get behind the garage, put down the stone border on the outside of the fence, and put on a coat of wood sealer.  But for now we are happy just to have the hardest part done AND we have effectively blocked the view of the junkyard next door.  Not bad considering we have no fence building experience and learned pretty much everything from watching youtube videos!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors: Part 1

We are now knee deep (3 feet to be exact, but more on that later) in our fence-building project, and as expected it is turning out to be our biggest and most difficult undertaking yet. The good news is that the neighbors (the very reason we are building the fence in the first place) appear to be out of town this week, so we don't have to deal with them sitting on their porch sneering at us through a haze of cigarette smoke, or with their two mangy dogs barking at us nonstop from the backyard.

Our first task was to remove a gnarled old half-dead pine tree that leaned precariously over our garage.  Not only was it ugly, it was also right in the path of where we need to put the fence, so it had to go.

This turned out to be more difficult than we'd anticipated.  The first tree service we called offered to come out and give us an estimate, but at the agreed upon time he never showed up and never called.  In fact, we never heard from him again. Then a series of major storms hit the area, which meant that all of the tree removal services were busy clearing storm damage and they told us it would likely be a month to six weeks before they could even give us an estimate. Finally we called K&B in Beaver Dam and they came out the next day to give us an estimate, but said it would be a few weeks before they could do the job. So we were thrilled when they called a week later and said they could do it the next day. We figured it would be a couple of guys and a truck, but instead they came with a whole crew and several trucks, including a GIANT wood chipper (obviously we made some Fargo jokes).

In under an hour, they had trimmed back the giant tree next to our driveway and taken down the pine tree.  It was really entertaining to watch! After they left, we were left with a pile of logs that we can use for firewood, so Lance went out with a chainsaw and cut them down. And he cut back the cherry trees in the backyard while he was at it.

Now, on to fence building, right? Umm... No. The next step was to get the building permit.  Lance went down to City Hall to ask some questions, and got nothing but attitude.  We looked up the regulations for fences online, but found that there are two different sections in the code, and they contradict each other. We decided to go with the section that benefitted us most. In some cities, fences can be right on the property line, in others they have to be one foot inside the line.  In Columbus, they have to be TWO feet inside the line, which is ridiculous. This means that if you want to put up a fence, you are agreeing to substantially reduce the amount of usable yard space, and if two neighbors have fences, you end up with a four foot strip of no-man's-land in between, which is just stupid.  The exception is that you can get written permission from the neighbor to go closer to the lot line.  The guy behind us (his driveway borders our back lot line) was completely agreeable to the idea, so we were able to go right up to the line in back and save both of the cherry trees.  We didn't even bother asking the degenerates next door because we're sure they know how much we dislike them and we didn't think they'd be too friendly about it.  Plus, we want as much of a buffer zone between us and them as we can get. So on that side, we are going two feet off the line, and then we will line the outside of our fence with a bed of river rock so that we don't have to mow back there.

FINALLY, after over a week of phone calls and waiting, we secured the permit. Yay! We had already had a load of cement and river rock delivered (also a pretty cool thing to watch), the Digger's Hotline guy had already marked off all of the gas lines for us, and we were eager to get started.

First we measured and marked off both the lot line and the fence line with string. Lance and my dad had already done the measuring a couple of weeks ago, but then the neighbor behind us had a new driveway poured and one of the workers had removed the stake marking the line in the back.  When Lance went out to ask him about it, he insisted he knew exactly were it went and he put it "back."  Not even close to where it was supposed to be.  So we had to re-measure, and this time Lance marked the spot with spray paint.

Then we set about removing sod from the strip where we will put the river rock (basically a two foot wide strip all along the side of the yard).  Lance cut out the pieces of sod and I helped move them to the trailer- it ended up looking like we were digging a moat- which, given the neighbors, really isn't such a bad idea.  Does anyone know where we could get sharks with laser beams attached to their foreheads? Or just some basic mid-size alligators?

While we were working on the "moat", we discovered a nest of baby birds in the little tree in the front yard.

And there was a crew of adult robins (seriously, not just one of them) who were NOT happy that we were working so close to the nest.  They spent most of the day dive bombing us and flying directly at our heads, coming WAY closer than we were comfortable with.  Of course, once we got the sod taken out, they had no problem hopping happily along the dirt path pulling out worms. You're welcome, stupid jerk birds.

The next phase of Operation Neighbor Repelling Fence was to go pick up the fence posts.  Unfortunately we don't have a lot of options for lumber around here.  Both of the independent lumber yards we called were charging THREE times as much per board as the big box stores, however the quality of wood at those stores is pretty dismal.  We checked both Menard's and Home Depot and found that Home Depot had very few fence boards even available and what they did have was all split and warped.  So we hitched up the trailer and went to Menard's instead.  And believe me, we had to search through piles of wood for a LONG time before we found enough posts in good, usable condition. This is why we opted to pick it up ourselves instead of having it delivered- we wanted to pick out the good boards ourselves.

So yesterday we started digging the post holes.  We are doing posts every six feet and the fence will be 6 ft high around the yard and then drop down to 4ft high in the side yard out to the front. So the majority of the holes need to be 3ft deep, with the shorter ones being 2ft. Only 3 feet! That doesn't sound too hard, right? WRONG!!!

First Lance cut 12" square pieces of sod from the location of each post. Then we went to the local hardware store and rented an auger.  We were expecting one of these, but were pleasantly surprised to find they had one of THESE instead:

However, while definitely easier than a smaller auger, this was still not an easy task.  Okay, that's an understatement.  Digging the holes SUCKED.  First of all, this thing is HEAVY. And the yard is not level, which meant that Lance had to really fight to keep it steady while drilling the holes. Then, we had expected to have a lot of issues with tree roots (and we did), but it turned out that our biggest problem was rocks.  And I am not talking little stones here, I mean HUGE rocks. So Lance went through and dug holes, and I followed along behind with a shovel and pried out ginormous boulders. Then he went back and dug them out some more, and I went through with a post hole digger and dug out the rest.

We also found that at just about 3 feet down, there is a layer of clay.  Like the exact kind of thick, hard gray clay that you use in art class.  Not going to lie, I resisted the urge to make a pinch pot out of it. And while that clay is all fun and games when you are in art class, it is a nightmare to dig out with a post hole digger.  This whole (hole?) thing took 4-5 hours and now we have a yard full of 2 and 3 foot deep holes, 28 of them to be exact.  I commented that I was worried we'd come out in the morning and find a raccoon or some other critter had fallen in a hole overnight, and Lance added "or a small child?" But I assured him that Baby Jessica is no longer a small child, so we should be good.

I am leaning on the counter because I am too exhausted to stand up

We were so tired last night we could barely move, and we were in bed by 8:30.  I would love to go back and tell my 7-year old self that someday I would VOLUNTARILY go to bed in the summer while it was still light out. I don't now how Lance is feeling this morning, since he had to go help a friend bale hay at 6am, but I am definitely HURTING.  Can't wait to get back out there today and haul around 50lb bags of gravel and concrete so we can set the posts......

But when we have a nice tall fence blocking our view of next door, it will all be worth it! I hope.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Custom Radiator Cover

Yeah! 4th of July weekend! America! Woo Hoo! And what better way to celebrate than with patriotic t-shirts, a parade, and....a new custom made radiator cover for the living room! Wait, what?

Well, my parents visited us last weekend and as usual, their visit included a lot of work around the house. It started when my mom and I spotted Lance and my dad scurrying up the stairs muttering about taking the screen off a window.  Next thing I know, Lance is up on the roof and my dad is running around on the ground handing things up to him.  Turns out they got it in their heads that the gutters needed to be cleaned.  Once that was done, they set about putting together the radiator cover my dad built for us. 

When we first moved in, we found two old metal radiator covers in the basement, so we hauled them up, cleaned off the rust, and painted them.  

We were so happy with the result that we've been looking for more covers for two years now.  After scouring craigslist regularly and making calls to various Habitat ReStores to no avail, we figured it was a long shot we would ever find one for the living room. 

But then we remembered that we have a talented carpenter at our disposal.  :)  So last time my parents visited my dad took careful measurements, and headed home to his workshop.  And by the time they visited this time, all we had to do was put together and paint the new one!

We debated for a long time about what color to paint this one- the living room has so much brown in it already, we didn't really want to add more to it, and we thought using the same dark orange color we have on the TV cabinet would be orange overload.  Finally we settled on antique white in hopes that it would brighten up the room and match the other ones in the house.  The cool thing about this one is that my dad took the long copper shelf (also found in the basement and requiring several hours of cleaning) that we've had sitting on top of the radiator and inset it into the top of the new cover.  We were a little unsure about how the copper would work with the gold metal grates that we'd chosen, but in the end we decided to leave the grates gold.  

So after a few coats of paint and polycrylic, this morning Lance attached the grates and we moved it into the living room.

We are thrilled with how good it looks! The white color brightens up the room and the wider ledge makes a perfect snoozing spot for the felines.

 We had to bribe them with treats to get them to stay up there so we could take a picture, but judging from how much time they spent napping on the radiator before, I'm pretty confident that once they get used to it they'll spend most of the day up there supervising activity at the bird feeder outside. 

And in backyard fence news, stay tuned because the old pine tree is DOWN, the plans are drawn, and on Monday we will be off to City Hall to apply for the building permit. We are THIS close to having a neighbor-free backyard!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Before and After: Rusty Metal Table

Today is an exciting day at the Douma residence! The gnarled old half-dead pine tree that leans precariously over our garage is coming DOWN! Because the tree is right in the path of where the new fence needs to go, getting rid of the tree brings us one step closer to a more peaceful, hillbilly-free yard. So, while I am sitting here waiting for the tree guy to get here, I thought I would share a couple of pictures of one of Lance's projects.

We found this old rusty metal table at (where else?) a garage sale this spring.  Even for the bargain price of $2.00 I was a little skeptical, given all of the rust.  But, it was just surface rust and the structure of the table was still good, and we figured for the price it was a pretty cheap gamble to take.

Lance spent the better part of an afternoon sanding away:

Then he sprayed everything down with rust converter and followed up with a couple of coats of spray paint.  And here is the final result:

It looks so clean and bright now! And all it needed was some cleaning and a fresh coat of paint- nothing had to be re-built or repaired.  More projects like this, please!