The frequency of my posts here have dropped off in recent weeks. For some reason I’m in a fallow period for the blog, and I’m spending too much free time just aimlessly looking at the internet for tiny dopamine hits. Weekends are different because I can get out from behind the desk and accomplish large visible things that have a tangible result, which I’m leaning on heavily for motivation. As my job-related output gets increasingly intangible it’s hard to feel a sense of accomplishment when my output for the day is a list of items crossed off on a list in a notebook.
This is not a complaint. I’m happy—and lucky—to have a job in the current climate. Some weeks it’s just more difficult to shift my mindset to the new normal.
The tomatoes in the greenhouse are beginning to perk up. After several weeks of apathy, they’ve noticed the change in temperature and are beginning to pick up their growth. When I look at my Flickr feed from last year the store-bought plants are a full month ahead of where I am this year, but I’m taking a much more careful approach to how I’m letting these grow. Being home every day means I can keep a closer eye on them—pruning back the suckers and extra branches to keep the main stem strong and healthy every day. From what I’m seeing online I need to be much more ruthless about pruning back extra branches that have set flowers, as they take the energy and growth away from fruit on the main section of the plant. But with the additional plants I’m growing, we’ll hopefully have a lot more production overall.
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.