Thursday, December 30, 2010

see rock

The rock patio alongside the house in the courtyard is sheltered from the
sun. Consequently, it cultures a thin film of mildew over time that, when
the rains persist, becomes slippery.
Powerwashing restores a bright, non-slip surface. The stairs also acquire a
slippery film that I don't like to introduce to visitors. Now they have a
more secure grip to them when taking that "flight".

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Repairing rat damaged wiring

Previous posts detailed how rats chewed through wires, disrupting internet connectivity at Searock.

The local electronics store couldn't supply replacement parts, so we undertook to simply repair the power supply units. These are common "transformers" used for many electronic devices that plug into regular house current (120 volts alternating current AC)and convert the power to DC (direct current) of a lower voltage.

The damaged wiring is cut off, the insulating jacket cut away from the ends of the paired conductor wires, and the cut ends are then soldered together using a soldering iron and solder, paying close attention to polarity (i.e. the wires must be matched to the same conductor of the pair from which it was separated).

A shrinkwrap insulation sleeve is slipped over the conductors after they are cut, but before they are soldered together.

Then, the shrinkwrap is slipped over the soldered connection and heat is applied. The sleeve shrinks around the repair, insulating it from exposure to the other conductor of the pair and other conductive objects.

Once these repairs were done, a voltmeter was used to confirm the correct DC voltage was being delivered to the business end of the cable. This is done by plugging the cable into standard house voltage (120 VAC), and then using the probes of the voltmeter, set at the appropriate setting, to test the appliance end of the cable for the correct DC voltage.
Once the cables were placed back in service, I set up my laptop computer in the house and confirmed that wireless internet connectivity was re-established in the house. (whew)

A number of other measures were taken to assure that the problem won't

Here, a 12" x 12" redwood ceiling beam end rests in a pocket of mortared stone that forms a passage way from the attic space over the great room to that over the kitchen wing of the house. Around the beam end are wire and pipes that carry vital fluids, information, and provide space for the illegal entry of undocumented aliens to various parts of the house.

To protect their innocence before the law
a physical barrier is put in place wherever deemed appropriate.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Up on the Roof - again

Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a symbiotic association of a fungus with an algae.

Although, theoretically, they cause no harm to the roof, at some point they begin to get out of hand. Their function in nature, beyond their own perpetuity, seems to be along the lines of turning their host into soil in some form or fashion, and since we still have a preferred use for the tiles on the roof, I decided to knock 'em back a bit.

In the morning, I took a 'before' picture, showing the courtyard side of the roof becoming a unified field of lichen.

After scraping an hour or can begin to see the original color of the roof tiles. The lichen scrapes off very easily....there's just so much of it!

Now this whole section is done:

It seems to grow mostly on the leeward sides of the roof, and this section was the worst. Another session or two and I can feel good about the ecosystem up there remaining 'roof'. As I worked up close on it, it began to remind me of the appearance of the sea floor the times we've been free diving. That's a nice association, but only divorced mentally from the idea of a roof keeping out the weather. I also began to feel somewhat like an apprentice seaman, scrubbing the deck and polishing the brass on an old three masted sailing ship, probably because I've been reading the biography of Harold Gatty . Well, I've had enough of that for now.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rat patrol

Unprovoked, the rats in the attic decided to hack our internet connection in the big house.

Now, I'm an easy-going guy, not rattled by co-existing other species, as long as they cooperate and abide by boundaries based on mutual respect...I even bend over backwards to accomodate them when they ignorantly disregard territorial markers, as long as they don't disrupt day-to-day activities with destructive and disrespectful malfeasance.

The attic rats have.

This is an area where sensitive electronic gear translates esoteric electron streams into and outof meaningful metaphysical messages from the world wide web of interconnected communications, and beams it wirelessly into the laptops, and minds, of the intended recepients. Taking a gnaw of the wiring up here renders centuries of civilized progress and teleological development moot. Rats have chewed clear through the wires connecting these devices. The router switch sitting on top of the battery backup unit had its power adapter chewed right off and two of three access points distributing the wireless signal to different areas of the house have also been vandalized.

The attic and/or basement of a house is, to the habitable spaces of that house, as the internal organ systems and spaces of a human body are to the outward appearance of that body. It's where the plumbing and wiring are visible, where important connections and transitions are made....where disease and invaders can lurk out of sight, opportunistically exploiting resources and habitat to grow and multiply. Every body needs an immune system, and that is my job, kind of an all-purpose T cell, mediating appropriate responses to forces that are in conflict with the mission that this house exists to fulfill.

In the photos above, note the 'catwalks', wide planks across the tops of ceiling joists that facillitate easier movement through the attic space. These catwalks get piled up with insulation and debris by rats for some 'reason'. Each time I go up here, I brush them clear, and then they get piled onto again, as the rats burrow and nest in the fiberglass insulation throughout the attic. And for no apparent reason they enjoy chewing on wiring...a very unendearing habit. They must GO!

In conjunction with previous efforts made to mitigate the problem, we have declared an edict

regarding these charming little furry critters.

The warning below was posted by a previous "T cell" visitor to the attic. For me it no longer holds any power or significance. It now remains for the 'rattus norvegicus', the most successful mammal on the planet after humans, to read and heed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dry stream bed

Along the path to the greenhouse is a sloped area that is prone to erosion during the rainy season. A dry stream bed seemed like it might be a solution.

So I dug a shelfed trench and lined it with filter fabric. The deeper section of the trench I filled with fist sized chunks of granite culled from various digs on the property.

Then I folded over the fabric and filled the remaining, wider area of the trench...

...with smaller river rock and a couple of stepping stones.

That way I can still roll a cart over the trench without disrupting the river rock too much.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fall back

Time hiccups in the middle of the night (Daylight savings time). The segue from fall to winter intensifies.But the firewood is laid up and sheltered, the roof has been cleaned and patched, a few more stepping stones have been planted in the dirt path leading to and from the cottage door.

Meanwhile, the kitchen garden is changing. Strawberries are quieting down, though carrots are still progressing nicely, green beans and zuccini are history.

A huge tide came in the other night and washed away a tree that had fallen in a rock slide last spring from the towering pinnacle of granite swept on either side by ocean surf in the south ravine:The tree had been companion to the other lonely sentinels still hanging on up there. Actually two trees had come down on that night last April, but one was small and was buried in fallen rock and so, still remains. Here is how things looked before that night:

From the right foot of the bluff you can just see the smaller tree low down and the larger one above it midway up.
Here, both are visible as well as the "hanger on" still at the top. We were lifting stone that day and you can see the load being hoisted up to the zipline above.

...the "hanger on":

Here are some photos from the morning after:

the larger tree:

The tide that came in the other night flattened that heap...tons of granite visible in a pile at the foot of the pinnacle in the photos above. Just levelled the playing field and took that fallen tree when it left. We labor to lift a few pounds of rock and marvel at ourselves when we get a couple hundred pounds up for various landscaping projects.

But there seems to be no limits to or stopping a force of nature, or the march of time.