Saturday, October 31, 2009


At sunset yesterday evening I took this photo of la Casa Grande.

Then, this morning I was up on the garage roof looking for a missing cat (who turned up later, yawning and hungry), and snapped these photos offering a unique perspective on our surroundings.

The Passion and the Rose

Good neighbors do good fences make...

The recent storm we had almost blew the fence over. Three 4x6 posts broke at ground level where they were buried in 2 feet of concrete. The fence was left leaning precariously onto some young treelings.

I removed several fence boards on either side of the posts and extracted any nails from 2x4 rails into posts. The 8 foot wide sections of fence mounted on 2x4 horizontal rails were then lifted out of the way and the broken posts removed. Instead of digging out the enormous concrete bulks that held the original posts, and remixing and pouring concrete, I opted to extract the remaining semi-rotted wood from the existing concrete pilings, leaving a 4 x 6 shaped cavity into which I can insert new posts. Then I'll re-install the railed sections of fence.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Replacing a water heater's t/p valve

Hot water on demand at the turn of a handle...what a thing to take for granted! Well, these things only come about by the accrual of many discreet inventions and tweaks (improvements) that the ingenuity of the human mind has pondered and problem-solved.

A temperature/pressure relief valve (t/p valve) is a device on the top or side of a water heater (center of photo below) that exists to safely allow excess pressure to be relieved in the event that, for some reason, temperature or pressure inside the tank of a hot water heater exceeds certain safe limits, like the ability of the fittings to resist being blown out and hot water spewing out in all directions. It has a spring loaded valve that opens if the pressure exceeds, say, 150 pounds per square inch, and allows hot water and pressure to escape via a pipe that is routed to a drain or to some other safe discharge point.

Sometimes the t/p valve itself fails, which in most cases means it relieves itself prematurely. If that happens, you usually will see the discharge or hear it. In our case I heard it, and so knew it was time to replace.

Step 1 is to detach the discharge pipe from the valve so one may unscrew the valve body from the water heater. This is accomplished by means of a pipe or tube cutter, as shown here:

Step 2 is to turn off the water supply to the water heater so that when you remve the t/p valve you don't create a geyser in the water heater room. Find the cold water inlet on the top of the water heater and follow it back to the first valve you come to, often blue in color. (photo below) Water heaters usually are labeled at the inlet and outlet points as to cold or hot. Cold is inlet, hot is outlet. Lifting up on the little lever on top of the t/p valve after you've turned off the supply valve will relieve pressure inside the tank and make it safe to wrench off the old valve.

Below is the old valve removed and you can see the interior that is heavily corroded from mineral deposits in the water. The new valve is in place but not tightened into final position.

With the new valve in place, the discharge pipe is reconnected:

So, it's not the most glamorous aspect of Searock, but these details underlie the creature comforts that we enjoy in even the most mundane of surroundings in this country. Having a plumber invade your sanctuary to do this basic maintenance chore would probably set you back a couple hundred dollars, but this job is easier than changing a flat tire, and you can take a hot shower afterwards. And that is something not to take for granted.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Red flowering gum eucalyptus

Repairing 400 year old furniture

This is an Italian walnut credenza, one of a matching pair that flank the living room on the west wall, possibly Emilian or Tuscan, dating from the early 17th century. The central panel is a hinged door that pulls open from the center knob.

While putting some things away in this, one day recently, I noticed that when I opened the door, the upper hinge slid out of its anchored location in the frame around the opening, due to the weight of the door in the open position. The 2 following pictures show the hinge with the door closed, then open:

From the inside of the credenza, due to the wear of the wood around the "corkscrewed" tail piece of the hinge where it is embedded in the frame, you can see the ingenious method of anchoring the frame half of the hinge in the frame. The wear is also the reason for the movement of the hinge, which would eventually cause the further breakdown of wood and/or iron tail piece and the failure of the door hinge to hold the door in place. (click on pic to enlarge)

Each hinge consists of a piece anchored to the frame, and a piece anchored to the door. The frame piece has a short pin protruding up that holds the door part of the hinge, the exposed part of which is fashioned into a cylinder that fits over the pin. When the door is opened, it can be lifted off the pins of the frame parts of the hinges and set aside.

Repair was accomplished using a 2 part gel epoxy that was forced into the void where the tailpiece was loose. After that cured, a latex wood patch compound was applied over the roughened area and a walnut stain was used to blend the tone of the area. None of the repair is visible unless you stick your head inside and use a flashlight, so I didn't get too fussy making the repair invisible.

It's always tricky to presume to repair something of this vintage. If this were a museum instead of a home, we probably wouldn't be using these beautiful antiques as furniture that gets used as part of a lived-in place, so they wouldn't be subject to on-going wear. But since it does get used, and wouldn't be of much use if the door fell off every time it was opened, I decided to give it a go, with the goal of making the repair completely unapparent to the casual observer or user. From a casual observation of the exterior, it appears that previous repairs had to be made in other places that did not allow for that criterium to be achieved.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

straight is the gate, narrow the way

And few there be that find it.

These are a few of the elect that passed by as we were throwing downed storm brush onto the truck for a dump run. Couldn't bother to take a picture of them all, too many and too spread out.

The scorpions are always there too, of course, only you're not always aware of them. Two of these, however, I became aware of, and they were dispatched.

There were several carpets damp from ambient moisture related to the recent storm, so we threw them out into the sun, that great, beneficent disinfectant that shines on the just and the unjust.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Broke a 45 year old record

Our rainfall total broke a 45 year old record for October 13, with almost 3 inches. That wasn't the only thing that fell during this storm.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Our first el nino

Oh, yeah, I remember now what winter is about...branches and trees shards everywhere, wind-blown water leaking in at every windward window and door and a few places you would never have figured, the awareness that we are at the mercy of nature, and thankful for a change into dry clothes. As a kid, I exulted in these displays of nature's power, and as an (alleged) adult I find I am no less impressed. I used to excurt to rivulets and mudslides, launching matchbox boats on perilous rapids, exploring vast uncharted regions of natural wonders unshielded from natural consequence. Today our first seasonal storm arrived somewhat early and delivered a significant blow to our habitat. Branches and trees are down, water intrudes, and wind & rain cleanse the air and the upper strata of the biosphere of detritus and whatever is too weak to remain...the rest presumably strengthened. We are confined to the cabin except for the occasional foray out to assess and mitigate damages. Tomorrow the sun will come out and we can begin to assist in the continued cleanup.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Change in the weather

Our three day Indian summer is over, or else on hiatus, while a Pacific storm rolls in tonight with heavy rain and wind. Glad for the water and the possible end to fire-season in California. Bring it!


"Once you commit to telling the truth, not stealing, forgiving, and working for the common good, then things that would otherwise be difficult become quite easy."

Saturday, October 3, 2009

duke & duchess

Near the mouth of the Carmel River is an estuary of reeds and tidal still water where there are always birds aplenty. Today, after we picnicked overlooking the beach, we visited them and shared our sourdough communion with these mallards and a host of Western gulls who horned in. There was an ambience of peace here today as the sun shone and the breeze was gentle. A wedding was being set up on the beach behind us, where the gulls were congregating, and beach-goers were walking to and from the parking area. In the quiet water I could see minnows running, as could the mallards, who would bottoms-up from time to time in the most ridiculous posture to nibble a fishy snack. They quickly figured out there was a hand-out going on, and joined the bread line, but the gulls were much more aggressive cutting in line and exhibiting a 'me-first' attitude and crying for attention. The ducks, on the other hand, while interested in the bread, were not going to sacrifice their dignity to make a mad dash for easy bread. If it came within reach and they made it to the morsel before a gull came crashing in to gobble, they would scoop it up and properly masticate it before swallowing. Curiously, when the mallards did score a piece, the gulls would turn away and leave them unmolested and uncontested, focusing instead on the next possibly forth-coming prize.
Earlier at our picnic site we'd fed a host of brewer's blackbirds...the jet black ones with yellow eyes (males) without the red epaulets, until a contingent of crows decided to assert their turf-rights. The black birds fell back and yielded the least ground necessary to not challenge the crows, but stuck around to pick up the smaller pieces the crows overlooked. Soon, though, they bailed and went in search of easier pickings.
After we stopped tossing bread morsels, the gulls lost interest in us and left. The mallards continued swimming about looking down into the still water.