Friday, February 27, 2009

Seven Steps

These steps of Carmel stone get mossy and slippery when wet for prolonged periods. Sometimes I kind of skateboard/surf down them without benefit of a skate- or surfboard. In my career I've developed a subconscious habit of moving over ever-shifting terrain with an anticipation of the possibility of losing my footing or slipping, so I usually can 'go with the flow' when it happens. But it's not a condition I need to repeatedly challenge myself with, or want others to unexpectedly encounter once I've become aware of it. So these steps got the treatment today; a dilute dose of Clorox and a scrub, followed by a high pressure rinse from the hose.

The steps at lower center and those to the left (blend in with wall and are hard to see) in the shot above also got the treatment. There are enough slippery slopes around already without letting the stairs get slippery, too. Know what I mean?

I was wondering what to call this post when I noticed there were 7 steps in the top picture. On a whim I googled "seven steps". 1,220,000 hits. Seven steps to this and seven to that, a million times! These here are just seven steps among many, many more. As long as each step is sure and sound, the next one can be negotiated in turn. Happy surfing!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Seek, find.

A string of outside lights along the side of the house just quit working.

Not having any idea what the cause was, I began by finding the light at the end of the buried wire, the last one on the circuit, and pulling the bulb. A continuity test showed the bulb was good. Tracing the wire back along it's path I found a 3-way junction just where it came out of a hole at the base of the wall. It was corroded and had disintegrated the conductors.

I trimmed back the wires and re-tied the junction inside a weather-proof box.

Covered it back up with pine needles. Let there be light!

Mending the Marble Mantle

The course of polished granite filigree was close to collapsing because of age and missing grout, and a chunk of marble had mysteriously gone missing from the mantle just above.
These photos show a sequence of repairs.
First a support frame was prepared and a masonry epoxy was injected into the cavity between the marble and the granite edging, and the support frame was wedged up, forcing the filigee back into alignment.
After the epoxy cured and the gap was grouted, the marble was repaired, also using an epoxy.
Final polishing was accomplished with powdered pumice.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sea life

The little black and white shell, lower left, is Tegula funebralis, the black turban snail.

The gumboot chiton

Under the rocks, and over the rocks, the closer you look, the more you see.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Storm fells Hakea and brings much-needed rain

The old Hakea gave it up in the night, succumbing to the 40 mph winds and the softened soil.  It's root system was way off it's center of gravity.  2 years ago we planted a baby Hakea in the well beside it, and it is thriving.  It will now step up to fill it's predecessor's place.  The ravine is flush with runoff from the deluge we've been having.  It looks pretty tame, actually.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Saint Valentine's Day

(click on photo for closeup)

Saint Valentine (in Latin, Valentinus) is the name of several martyred saints of ancient Rome. The name "Valentine", derived from valens (worthy), was popular in late antiquity.
One saint Valentine was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius II, known as Claudius Gothicus. He was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Helping Christians at this time was considered a crime.

Claudius took a liking to this prisoner -- until Valentinus tried to convert the Emperor -- whereupon this priest was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stoned; when that didn't finish him, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate.

Many of the current legends that characterise Saint Valentine were invented in the fourteenth century in England, notably by Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle, when the feast day of February 14 first became associated with romantic love. (from wikipedia)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

energy efficient

I drained & refilled all water heaters on the property (3) and wrapped them with insulation jackets. The one in the main house was "hard-piped" w/o the option of 'easily' disconnecting the water heater for maintenence or replacement. This condition is now corrected as shown in the photos, with new 'union' fittings placed just above the water heater, along with new shut off valves (since the old ones were corroded). This 74.5 gallon water heater is 13 years old, and I don't think it had ever been drained to eliminate sediment buildup. I'm surprised it still is working. While I was completing this project, a blimp from the AT&T golf tournament was wending it's way down the coast on to it's next whatever..."Come fly with me.." it invited...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Electrical scare

Sparks and smoke erupted spontaneously from a fissure in the wall one day, recently. After a quick call to the fire department and shutting off the circuit breakers for several suspect circuits in the vicinity of the fissure, we set about restoring the status quo. These pictures follow the sequence of repairs:

Several firemen arrived, filling the foyer where the incident happened. I had the ladder already in place, and one of the firemen climbed up and pulled down the piece of plaster from behind which the sparks had flown. It was about a square foot in size, and had been separated from the wall due to what we had thought was a condition of rain water infiltrating into the walls from outside and causing efflorescence, i.e. pushing salt crystals out with the water vapor to the interior surfaces of the walls. The exterior walls were sealed several years ago and we have been postponing repairs and repainting to be sure the water infiltration and efflorescence had stopped. One of the firemen followed me up into the attic with his heat detector to verify that no embers were smoldering in the wood framing there.

When he pulled off the plaster chunk, 2 rusted sections of metal electrical conduit were exposed. It had indeed been raining, and there was an active leak coming through the limestone crown moulding and right into the damaged zone. This leak, however, was not from the exterior walls, but from the roof. Over the course of many years, the conduit rusted and it's interior surface became abrasive. The electrical wires inside are subject to micro-movement due to the alternating current they carry, and the plastic insulation on the wires finally wore through, allowing the copper conductor to touch the conduit, creating sparks and further melting the plastic insulation.

Water also ran down into the switch box below:

I cut back the rusted conduit, removed the old switches, located the junction box in the attic where the (6)wires were spliced, and pulled in 6 new conductors through the old conduit, and installed new switches, sparing myself the daunting challenge of removing more plaster or even the crown moulding.

Then I patched the plaster and painted it with a "near" matching color until such time as we undertake to repair all the other efflorescence and repaint the rest of the room.


We then began the roof work detailed in the post below (see January 16), in the hope that further roof leaks can be prevented. That led to a whole new project as well.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009

roof repair

The 'before':

the 'during':

dates stamped on end of tiles:

our numbering system:

We found a section of loose roof tiles perilously close to sliding off right over the laundry room balcony door.

We removed them all, numbering them for replacement, cleaned, and will reinstall them using copper nails, copper wire and mortar. Interestingly, we found the tiles all date-stamped, from the time of original construction. They were made b/w 1916 & 1918.