We’re at that point in the porch project where we’ve got the bones of it 95% complete, but all of the stuff that has to happen now is taking forever to come together. This past week it crawled along while I applied successive layers of polyurethane to the floor—five in total, equalling about 3/4 of a gallon. We’d decided we didn’t want to see the pattern get worn off immediately, so some serious protection was in order. Now there’s a hard candy shell on the whole thing, and hopefully it won’t come off for a long time.
So my focus was mostly elsewhere on Saturday and Sunday. I pulled a stepladder out of the garage and started scraping and priming windows on the driveway side of the house, working my way around to the two jalousie windows on the porch—which haven’t been touched in the 17 years we’ve lived here. Late in the morning we had a visit from the invisible fence guy, who fixed the wire that had been cut when the driveway went in, as well as altered the layout so the backyard is its own zone to keep Hazel from rushing dogs passing by the front yard.
After he’d left, I took Finn on a bike ride down the hill to the asylum, figuring it would be something interesting to look at. The roads were closed to through traffic, but we pedaled around the campus and looked at the crumbling buildings while I managed Finn’s anxieties about trespassing and breaking laws. She is a rule-follower, except when it involves chocolate. On our way out a nice security guard told us they’d closed the campus up because there was an outbreak of COVID in the wards that are still open, but since we’d only been on our bikes he wasn’t worried about us.
Sunday was overcast and cooler, so I pulled the Scout out into the driveway and swapped out the starter. When I’d finished up that and some other smaller projects, I pulled the pressure washer out of the garage and cleaned the backs of the Adirondack chairs so that they’d be dry for paint on Monday.
Monday broke sunny and warm, and the fifth coat of poly was dry on the floor, so I patched the final areas on the porch that needed attention and left them to dry. Out in the backyard I set the Adirondack chairs up behind the greenhouse and sprayed them with primer and then two coats of white semigloss. I have to say, other than the fact that the container only holds a quart of paint, the sprayer is fantastic to work with, and worth every penny I spent on it. What would have easily taken all day to paint with a brush got done in about two hours time—including cleanup. The area behind the greenhouse looks like someone murdered a snowman, but the chairs look damn good.
While the chairs were drying I went inside and cleaned up the patches on the porch, and then we hauled the furniture around to the front of the house to bring inside. I’m going to let Jen do the big reveal when it’s ready, but it really looks great in here (I’m sipping coffee and writing this on one of the new chairs).
We took a quick ride in the Scout to drop off a birthday present Finn made for a friend, and when we got back it was the perfect weather to light a fire in the backyard. While the fire was getting warm, Jen brought the clippers down and she shaved my quarantine fro down to a manageable 3/4″. It’s choppy and patchy in places but it’s worlds better than the giant bushy mess I’d been hiding under hats for the past month. Finn walked over to invite the neighbors over for some socially distant s’mores. We stayed out and chatted until 10:30, grateful for conversation and company, and then all staggered off to bed smelling of woodsmoke and chocolate.
I’ve been meaning to replace Peer Pressure’s starter for years now, but 2020 was the first year it appeared on my to-do list. Today was the day I decided to get it done. Work has paused on the porch project while we wait for polyurethane to cure, so I found myself with an overcast Sunday to work with. I figured the best way of getting access to everything was to pull the wheel completely off, so I used a bottle jack to get the wheel up in the air, braced it with a jack stand, and pulled it off.
Once that was done, it was a pretty simple job of pulling both leads from the old starter, loosening the mounting bolts, and letting it fall into my hand from above. Looking into the hole, it looks like the flywheel is in decent shape, so my guess is that the solenoid wasn’t engaging completely with the teeth and making that terrible grinding noise.
With that done I swapped the spacer onto the new Delco starter and clanked it around until it was in place. I cleaned off both bolts and tightened it up, then reconnected the wires and made sure everything was tight before replacing the wheel and putting it back on the ground.
Reconnecting the battery, I got in and turned the key: She fired right up, and sounded great! the starter has a different sound than the old unit, but it’s something I can definitely get used to.
After that was done, I futzed around with a couple of other small things I’ve been thinking about: the driver’s window is binding up again, so I pulled the panel off and replaced the front spring clip, which continues to come off, with a different one from my spares. Then I tightened up all of the bolts and put the door back together.
Next, I thought I’d fix the bent bedrail caps that have been bugging me since I got the truck. To explain: the soft top has a C-channel hinge mounted in the middle of the bedrail that serves as a mounting point for both of the hoops. The hinge is screwed into a metal cap that IH provided to cover the top of the bedrail. Over the course of several off-road excursions, the previous owner bashed the soft top into stuff and thus bent the caps all to hell. They have looked janky for years and I figured I’d finally straighten them out as best I could. Using a vice and a body hammer I got both of them as close to straight and level as possible, then hit them with some Rustoleum before replacing them and tightening everything down. It all looks worlds better now.
Happy Anniversary, Jen. I can’t imagine being stuck in a house and enduring a global pandemic with anyone else in the world.
So there it is. I started spraying at 10AM and finished up the last section at 4, and it took about an hour to clean everything up. I went with the big guns and wheeled my new upright compressor to the front door for the sprayer. It worked like a dream. I worked the stencil down the middle of the room and then shot each side; the only issue I ran into was some misregistration on the house side requiring a do-over of one square. Overall, it sprayed super easy and when I had a rhythm worked out with the gun, my baffle, a lint cloth, and some tape, each side went pretty quickly. We had to paper off the walls to make sure there wasn’t any overspray, but Jen stayed ahead of me the whole time and I didn’t have to wait for anything.
After I’d moved the compressor back to the garage, scrubbed a fist’s worth of paint off the stencil, and cleaned out the gun, I went back in with a beer and a watercolor brush and cleaned up some edges and some overspray here and there. Overall there’s not a lot that needs to be touched up; the stencil was that good. So we’re going to let it sit and cure for a week, do some wall touch-ups, and then we move on to furnishings and furniture.
I’m extremely pleased with the $60 sprayer I bought—it knocked this job out of the park, and I’m already looking ahead to shooting paint on the four Adirondack chairs in the backyard when it’s warmer and dryer…and then maybe the house…
On Sunday I got out in the greenhouse and addressed the issue of the back wall once and for all. It was originally one sheet of polycarbonate panel cut to fit the peak of the roof, so I had to disassemble half of the back wall to take it out for airflow. This year, I had some time to think about it and come up with a better plan. The polycarbonate panels are held in place by an inside and outside sandwich rail that bolt to the frame of the greenhouse.I took the back panel out and then cut the two outside rails 6′ off the ground, and then cut the polycarbonate 6′ from the bottom. Then I put the top section back in permanently and left the bottom rectangle off. I’d built a chicken-wire frame for the back wall two seasons ago for the back wall but that was now too tall, so I reframed it to fit the new opening.
With that done and in place, I pumped water from the low rain barrel to a holding tank—it’s going to rain for the next five days—and watered all the tomatoes. They’re all progressing well and look pretty happy. Looking back on last season, the plants were about four times the size at this point, but the weather has been so shitty in 2020, I can’t let it get me discouraged.
This old warhorse showed up on Craigslist this afternoon; $1500 for some rust held together with what looks like Glacier Blue paint. 4cyl/manual. It’s being sold by a dealer, so it’s more than likely they drug it out of a field somewhere and are advertising it to get some of those sweet sweet Icon dollars.
I would give them maybe $300 for this as it sits; I doubt anyone wants a blue interior, unless it’s got a tilt wheel. The engine is worthless but the transmission and running gear are valuable. And maybe the hubcaps.
The Lockardugan clan has settled in to a loose daily quar-routine. Hazel gets us up anywhere from 6:30-7 and we drag Finley out of bed. I put Hazel out back for a wee and set the coffee up while the girls get themselves ready, and then we take a mile and a half walk down past the school and back up the trolley trail. I then meet up with a neighbor and Hazel and I do a quick walk down the street with Harvey, his dog, in an attempt to normalize her around other dogs. She’s actually taken to these walks with Harvey, and she’s content to follow behind him (10 feet, naturally) while he does his daily business. She doesn’t jump or whine or bark or strain to be with him, which is definitely progress.
Back at home, we all get our breakfast together and slowly settle in to our individual days: Finley attempts to get her schoolwork done (this is hit or miss), I settle in to my workday at my desk, and Jen alternates between her work, riding herd on Finley, and working on the porch. For me, work has been just as busy as before, so I’m often working through lunch at my desk, which is not how I like things. It’s getting warmer now and the draw to go sit outside in the sunshine is stronger; the trick is getting everyone on the same timeframe to eat together. And I need to order a new picnic table from Lowe’s next week.
I think I’ve eaten better in the last two months than in the last two years; we were eating out much more often than was comfortable, and both the quality of the food and my wallet show the value of making things at home. Jen has knocked menu planning, food delivery, and cooking out of the park.
After we eat together, Finn and I take care of the dishes while Jen lights a fire, and we sit around the fireplace to read chapters of our book together. Hazel works through her evening ya-ya’s and I play possum or rope with her to work some energy out so that she’s not running from window to window whining about the fat bunnies in our yard munching on clover in the twilight. After a few chapters, we talk about our favorite parts of the day, say our goodnights, and when the girls go upstairs, Hazel and I settle into the den where she curls up in the beanbag while I play on the Xbox.
Wednesday I was troubleshooting a network issue on my work laptop and narrowed it down to the little dongle I’m using to connect up to USB devices and a hardwired network port. (Modern MacBook Pro’s have reduced the number of available ports down to 2 USB-Cs.) From what I could tell the dongle, which was hot to the touch, had failed and wasn’t passing network information through to my laptop. At the same time Finley was having issues with her school laptop (which finally arrived Tuesday evening) so I switched her to her MacBook with a wired connection and then fought our wireless network for about a half an hour before getting completely fed up. Our Airport Express is a refurbished replacement I bought several years ago and it’s been working well up until now, but I think the heavy load of wireless devices on the network has finally revealed its shortcomings.
The Wirecutter reviewed routers in January and I chose their budget recommendation, which will be here sometime on Friday. It’s built to handle multiple loads with band switching, so it should be able to cope with four laptops, two phones, an iPad and any other devices that pop onto our network. With that addition and the new switch in the basement, everything inside the FIOS router should be as modern as possible. I did some sleuthing pre-COVID and realized that said FIOS router is over 10 years old, so I think it’s time to have them update that piece of hardware—maybe next week.
We’ve been working with the stencil out on the porch for the last couple of days and it hasn’t been going as planned. The stencil itself is a very sturdy piece of plastic, surpassing my expectations, but the floor paint we’re using does not roll through the stencil cleanly—there are lots of blobs and fuzzy edges as a result of the paint curling under the edges and getting trapped between the floor and plastic.
We started considering alternatives, and I thought of a little device I’ve had squirreled away in my Scout stash for a while: a little sprayer that will aerosolize all kinds of paint. I’d earmarked it for stuff like touch-ups and spraying rust inhibitor in tricky spots, but after digging it out of my bins I used it for a test run of the floor paint. The paint flowed pretty freely and it laid down a lot cleaner than the roller, so I sourced a latex paint gun at Lowe’s and picked it up with Hazel right after work on Wednesday.
On the way out of the parking lot, while waiting at the light, a guy in a black sedan pulled up next to me, trap music blaring, and rolled down his passenger window. Over the sound of the beats, he yelled out, “THAT shit is TOUGH!” with a huge smile on his face. The Scout reaches across all boundaries.
Back at home I set up the sprayer and laid the pattern down four times, finding the right pressure and spray pattern through trial and error. When I’d gotten it right, it laid down clean and crisp through the stencil, using much less paint, and looked worlds better. So our next step is to roll black over the floor to set everything back to zero, clean up the edges, and prepare for a Saturday of stenciling.
Here’s the porch with three coats of new deck paint down; this goes on light but dries thick and doesn’t come off my skin as easily as standard latex paint. It turned out the “floor paint” we were given was just regular paint, so we thought it best to use actual deck paint for the high-traffic, high-visibility area. It’s a bit darker and more neutral than the original paint we selected but a bit shinier and more reflective. Jen is beginning the job of taping off a border and preparing for the stencil work today.
And here’s the greenhouse with one additional container; I saved the last three seedlings from various places and planted them in a bin in back. All told there’s about 25 plants out there; I’ve got some research to do about pinching them off and making sure the plants grow healthy and strong. I think we’re at the point when I can pull the rear panel off the back wall and replace it with chicken wire—overnight temps got down to the high 30’s last week but I’m hoping that’s over with now.
Hazel had me up at 6:15 this morning and as I rose from the bed I got an alarm bell from my head, which told me the barometer was pogoing around and that we were steering for a headache. Jen took Hazel and I went back to bed until 9, which was a lovely treat. Unfortunately my head felt worse when I woke up, so I made coffee and took two Advil in the hopes things would calm down.
It’s sunny but cold outside and the wind is howling through the trees, so Hazel isn’t keen on a walk and I’m not keen on getting out to the porch and continuing work, but the show must go on. I’ve got some painting and patching to do, and then we have to focus on the floor. Jen and I assembled a bunch of furniture on Thursday night in the backyard and left it out there to offgas (the oil they used in the teak stinks) for a week or so before we move it inside. Besides Finn’s bed, this is the first new furniture we’ve bought in probably 10 years, and it was fun to put together.
On my desk in the office there’s a shiny black iPhone SE2 in the final stages of pairing with my Apple Watch. They arrived yesterday (Jen and I both upgraded) and they are everything I hoped they’d be: faster, shinier, and the same size as our 6’s. I could actually use the beat up old case from my 6 for this phone, but I think the case has seen enough abuse—and this time Jen and I are going to buy different cases to avoid grabbing each other’s phone.
Pairing the watch was a little rocky last night—it took several tries and failed for various reasons so I let things sit overnight and let the two of them talk things over before forcing them to get married. The getting-to-know-you time seems to have worked because they’re currently planning the honeymoon and picking out appliances together.
There’s the floor on the porch with quarter-round in place around the perimeter and one coat of paint to cover the smudges. Note the rectangle in the upper right corner—that will become important in the coming days.
And here’s the greenhouse as it stands; things look relatively small but are getting larger daily.