Project and Purchase Roundup, Last 2/3 of April 2020

Shortly after we moved into our new house, we found that the roof in out sunroom was leaking. It was pretty minor at first, just a few drips from where the top of the wall joins the ceiling. I figured it was ice damming with the melting snow. I cleaned off the roof, which seemed to stop the problem and didn’t think about it until some time later when it rained, and it again leaked. So I bought some roof patch and patched some areas that seemed like likely culprits (the sunroom is only 6’x18′, so the roof is pretty small). Next rainfall showed that the patching was no avail. This continued a few more times, with me trying something and it not working, until I finally just laid a steel roof over it. No more leaks. That cost me about $700 in materials.

I also had to buy a Skil saw to complete the roofing project, as I only had a small and weak battery powered one. I got a decently made 7 1/4 corded saw for about $50. I’ve already used this saw for other projects, and I expect to get a lot of use out of it for many years to come.

I threw together a quick outdoor compost bin, as the worm bin needed a break from daily dumping for a while to let the worms get established. I think the materials cost me about $60, with the majority of that being hardware cloth. It turned out that I probably didn’t need to build it yet, as about the time I got it done the chickens got to a size where they began to go through food scraps much more quickly. I also put up another set of robe/towel hooks in the bathroom, and replaced a failed toilet paper holder.

When I put the steel roof on the sunroom, I had to special order sidewall and endwall flashing, as the roof over the sunroom is a hip roof that joins a higher wall. The flashing came in a protective box made of several 12′ long 2x6s banded together. Not one to let good lumber go to waste, I used these, together with a few pieces of scrap laminate countertop that I’ve been holding on to for a while, to build a rough but usable temporary kitchen counter setup. There was no kitchen counter when we moved in, and only 2 double-door steel upper wall cabinets. We’ve been using a folding plastic table as our countertop, but because it was several inches lower than a typical countertop, it hurt Courtney’s back to do too much cooking, canning, or baking at one time. The new setup is definitely “rustic” in appearance, but basically doubles her available work space and undercounter storage space while actually making the room feel bigger and more open.

Stay tuned for the the next project and purchase update, which will likely include the installation of a garden.

Post-Move Project Update, 4/11/2020

Since we moved, projects have had to compete with unpacking and sorting (still more to do as we pare down), so only the more important projects have been done. Courtney painted the kids’ room within the first week or so, from a bright peach to a blue/gray color. Since that room also has our only real east-facing wall, it also is the prayer room, and I hung the icons and put in the small table that holds our candles and incense burner.

The bathroom also required some immediate attention. I replaced all the toilet guts due to sticking and running, I also removed all the old and deteriorated caulking around the tub, and re-caulked it. Finally, I had to replace the pop-up drain assembly and S-trap on the bathroom sink due to both leaking.

Most of the outlets in the house are non-grounded, so I have been going along replacing them with GFCI outlets to so that we can plug in 3-prong appliances and have some ground protection. Also, at Courtney’s request, I installed a floating shelf above the kitchen sink. Since we have extremely limited cupboard space right now, this shelf holds our most used dishes–everyday plates, bowls, and cups, as well as coffee cups.

Outside the house, I started a worm bin in the garage for compost, and ordered 2,000 compost worms from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm to get it going. I bought 8 Rhode Island Red chicks at Tractor Supply, along with a pre-built coop. I’m not sure if I’ll stick with the pre-built coop long term, but I have too much else to do at the moment to build my own again. My parents gave me the steel frame for a picnic table 2 Christmases ago, and I finally bought lumber and assembled it. This allows us to eat outside when the weather is nice, a good thing when you live in a small house. Finally, I dug out my sidewalk leading to the front door, allowing me to see what needs replacing and what doesn’t.

Recent Project Update: 10/1/19

New sink

Most of my recent project energy has gone into the kitchen. First, I found a stainless steel sink on the side of the road, and replaced the existing stained-up porcelain sink. Courtney did not like the porcelain sink because it sat so high above the counter top that you could not put a drainboard next to the sink. The new-to-us stainless sink sits much more flush, and allows the use of a drainboard. I also installed an under-sink filter to replace the on-faucet filter we previously had. 

Much more sturdy of a cook surface

The next big project was to replace the stove. Some friends that were moving gave us a gas stove, which Courtney greatly prefers to the electric stove that we had. The trivets that hold up the burners on the electric stove were prone to bending under the weight of Courtney’s pressure canner, and she found that gas much more evenly heats the cast iron pans her prefers than electric burners do. Unfortunately, there was no gas line run to the kitchen, so I had to install new gas line from the water heater in the basement up to the kitchen. I brought it up through a cabinet, and forgot to factor in the length of the valvecock, so now the stove sits a few inches away from the counter and a few inches off of the back wall. Courtney is so happy to have the gas stove that she doesn’t mind this, and I may build in some kind of a spacer eventually.

After the stove, the next project was to begin painting the cabinets. We started with the bottom cabinets, and then did the top cabinets above the sink, which we just recently finished. We have decided to hold off on painting the rest of the top cabinets until after we paint the walls. The poop-brown wall behind the stove particularly has to be painted to a more appealing color.

Other than the kitchen, the only recent project I can think of is moving the chicken and duck pen. They had worn the grass down pretty bad, so I pulled out all the t-posts and fenced off a new area of the back yard. Eventually, I hope to have two separate areas fenced off, where I can rotate between the paddocks weekly to allow the grass a chance to grow back. Maybe next year.

As you can see, it was getting pretty worn down.

Learning to be Thankful: Or Why I Missed Church this Morning

All the kids were dressed and buckled in. Courtney was ready. I got in the car and turned the key.


I tried again.

Still nothing.

I turned on the lights.

Plenty bright.

Oh great, the starter’s out. Just what I need.

I told Courtney. She suggested I take Elgin and go to church in my pick-up, which has only 2 normal seats and a tiny jump seat in the back. I thought about it. I wanted to go.

“If I don’t fix this now, you won’t be able to go to Vespers tonight, and we won’t be able to go to church tomorrow morning.”

I got on my moped and headed to O’Reilly’s.

$130? For a re-manufactured one? Ooof. Just what I needed. Guess I’ll have to throw it on the credit card like everything else.

I put it in the basket on the back of my moped and started home.

An hour later, I was done. I turned the key, and the engine started up.

Thank God!

I should have been thanking Him much earlier.

I started thinking of all the reasons I had to thank God in this situation.

Thank God that the flywheel teeth were sharp and intact–I didn’t have to replace it.
Thank God my Dad taught me how to use tools and fix things–a mechanic would have charged me at least $350.
Thank God the starter went out at home, and not last night when Courtney was at church with the kids and I was at work–or yesterday morning when she was picking apples with the kids an hour north of here.
Thank God O’Reilly’s had a re-manufactured starter motor in stock.
Thank God I had the time to fix it before going to work–and even had time left over to spend some time with the kids.

All in all, I was blessed this morning, and I’m learning to be more thankful for my blessings.

Three-High Bunk Bed for Crib Mattresses

I built this three-high bunk bed for crib mattresses for my kids at a total cost of $7 for a box of screws. The majority of the wood is old deck boards from when I resurfaced my deck last year, and the bolts were scavenged from another old bed. The 2x4s were given to me by a friend when he moved. It’s rustic and imperfect, but solid. The bolts are in various locations from board to board as I placed them to avoid knots and existing cracks. As you can see, there is currently no mattress on the middle bunk–Edna isn’t sure about climbing up into bed yet, and so is on the bottom. When Helen moves out of the crib, Helen will go on the bottom and Edna will move up to the middle. That gives us a few months to get her used to the idea. Previously, Elgin and Edna each had a toddler bed, so there is significantly more floor space in the room now, even though it can now accommodate another child.

Project and Purchase Roundup: September-October 2017

With a lot going on the past two months, I neglected to post at the end of September. I’m going to gloss over less interesting purchases (do you really want to know each time I buy more chicken feed?) in the interest of actually getting this done. My first project for September was cleaning out my garage. I have a single-car garage, and I had used it for several building projects. It had been a few months since I had parked in the garage, so I cleaned it out, organized it, and started parking in it again.

All through September and October, my wife has been canning. We got a free pressure canner the first week of September, and she later got over 100 free canning jars. I had purchased 2 dozen jars before that point, but with a few more boxes of lids, she went to town canning pickles, green beans, applesauce, apple butter, etc. I bought the wife a Foley Food Mill for the applesauce at the beginning of September, and around the beginning of October, she got a Victorio for free from my grandparents.

The next major project, around the second week of September, was felling a dying Black Spruce in the backyard, limbing the trunk, and burning the branches. I bought a beam cutter to use with my chainsaw, and I intend to square off the trunk with it, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. I also, with the help of my father and two of my brothers, pruned the maple in the front yard, which hasn’t been pruned for at least 30 years. We took out a number of 6-8″ diameter branches, and some larger. I still have to buck up a number of those logs, and split the larger ones, but all the small limbs have been burned.

I bought 100 landscape pavers off of Facebook, and built a flower garden along the front of the house with them. I filled the flower garden with compost, dog droppings, and grass clippings, and then topped it off with about 8″ of wood chips that I got for free. I got 8 railroad ties for free off Craigslist (and transported them 30 miles in my sedan) and with some lag bolts from the hardware store, secured them together to make a large square flower garden around the Maple in the front yard. This was placed so that I no longer hit roots with the lawnmower when I mow. Like the other flower garden, I filled it with grass trimmings, dog droppings, compost, and wood chips.

Between September and October I spent a large amount on icons, incense, charcoal, candles, candlesticks, an incense burner, etc. We now have a functional prayer corner with supplies to last a while, and icons over our beds.

As the weather cooled off in September, I bought 6 yards of flannel for my wife to make a dress (or 2) with, and 2 pairs of fleece-lined pants for myself.

Somewhere around mid-September, I re-did the nursery. I painted the entire room, the trim, and the heat register. I also replaced all the outlets with “child safe” ones.

My final project for September was to pressure wash my front porch. In October I put the first coat of new paint on it, but sadly, it remains unfinished.

October 1st we picked up a puppy, a then-8-week-old Great Pyrenees mix that has doubled in size in the month we’ve had him. It was the same day that we got the Victorio from my grandparents, and though we didn’t get the dog from them, we did get a wire cage from them for free, as well as a nice oil lamp.

We were at my grandparents specifically to help with projects there, and I kept my chainsaw running all day clearing out trees my grandpa wanted removed. I came back later in the month to finish cutting down trees and to get started on burning brush. In fact, I bought a new bar and 2 more chains just to keep up with this project.

I bought a few new Henleys and flannels as the weather got colder, and a nice blaze orange jacket from Vinnie’s hunting sale.

And then all projects came to crashing halt the 3rd and 4th week of October, as I was working 80 hour weeks and had no time for anything. Thank God, that time is past, and hopefully I can soon wrap up the unfinished projects outside before snow flies (or at least before it starts sticking).

Monthly Project and Purchase Roundup: August 2017

My first project completed in August was mulching the trees and lilacs I planted earlier in the summer, and putting ashes around the spruces. 2 of the 10 spruces died, but thankfully it was the ones at either end of the line, so they are all still evenly spaced. At St. Vincent’s, I found a well-built older, wooden child-size rocking chair, which I bought for my son at a cost of $12.

On my list of major purchases to make for quite awhile has been some sort of pantry for my wife’s kitchen. I found an old entertainment center on the side of the road, and it has become our new pantry. I spent $7 on a bottle of Old English scratch cover, and $50 on two galvanized steel buckets that each hold 50lbs of flour and fit nicely in the bottom of the pantry. While I was at the hardware store for the buckets, I also bought a flyswatter for $2 and a new dustpan for $8.

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Monthly Project and Purchase Roundup: July 2017

The simplest project I completed this month was to mount my .22 caliber pellet rifle above the door from the kitchen to the back porch. This was in order to make it handy for shooting the rabbits that have been decimating my tomato plants. I went to Ace Hardware and bought 2 brass coat/hat hooks for a total of $10, and mounted them above the door. This has made it much easier to grab the pellet rifle when there is a rabbit in the garden.

Another project had to do with the chickens. We were steadily losing chickens–always during the day–with no sign of what was taking them. I bought some light plastic netting at True Value for a total of $55 and covered the entire pen. A few days later, I saw a black cat outside the pen, apparently foiled by the netting. I shot it with the pellet gun, and we haven’t lost a chicken since.

When I originally fenced the chicken pen, I used free welded wire fencing given to me by a friend that had moved. But at the chickens have grown, the space became insufficient, and too-heavy traffic meant that the grass was being destroyed. So when my wife saw several rolls of welded wire fencing and a dozen or so metal stakes on a Facebook buy/sell group for $35, I told her to get it. Using the new fencing, I came close to doubling the area the chickens can roam. Finally, I spent another $16 on another 50 lb bag of chick feed.

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Weekly Project and Purchase Roundup, 6/17/17

My first project this week was to build the chicken coop. The second was to replace the left front wheel bearing assembly on my car. This was not because the bearings themselves were bad, but because a faulty sensor integral to the assembly was causing the traction control to kick in randomly. Between parts and a torque wrench, the car project set me back $140. The chicken cook project cost me $35 in hardware, screws, and other materials. (I had bought some materials in previous weeks when I build the nesting boxes, and also used scrap I had lying around.)

I also bought a large chicken drinker, a large feeder, and more food for a cost of $100, and 10 more chicks for a cost of $35.

Other purchases this week were a set of ratcheting box-end wrenches for $10, some red paracord for $5, a corn broom for $8, a box of band-aids for $2, a case of 12 pint-size wide-mouth canning jars for $9, 2 bars of Fels-Naphta soap (wife uses it to make her laundry soap) for $4, several packets of herb seeds for $11, and a 16-quart stainless steel stock pot for $35.

Weekly Project and Purchase Roundup, Week Ending 6/3/17

I’m late again, but better late than never, right? We’ll start with the purchases this past week. I spent $36 on Rhode Island Red chicks, which I ordered online from Tractor Supply Co. The minimum order is 10 chicks, so I ordered 10, but I received 12. 1 died after 2 days, but the other 11 have about doubled in size and seem healthy. I spent $100 at True Value on 2 chick feeders, 2 chick waterers, a scratch block, a 5 pound bag of dried mealworms, and a few bags of feed. I spent $25 at Wal-Mart for a large plastic tote with lid, which I drilled air holes in and use to house the chicks indoors at night.

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