Monday, September 29, 2014


As you can see, the last section of our driveway has been poured. They still have to strip the forms and cut relief joints in it but the hard part is done. It is also the beginning of a countdown because I have a week while that final section is curing before I can drive across it and my wife will be wanting to put the vehicles back into the garage. Since the garage was empty, I am putting the time to good use and painting it inside top to bottom. Hopefully I can wrap that up in the next couple days and then start building my workbench and my wife's gardening bench so that I can start moving stuff back into place. Once that is done, then I need to get cracking on the landscaping because that is going to be a lot of days getting intimate with a wheelbarrow and shovel.

There was a little controversy in pouring that last final section. I had wanted to pour up to the edge of the road leaving the concrete a bit higher and then fill in the huge potholes and crumbling edge of the old asphalt road with hotpatch. This would help to create a bit of a gutter for the water to run past my driveway to the head of the draw off to the left and not over top of my driveway as it has before. We also thought that it would be easier for the city to match up to it some point in the future when/if they ever fix our road. Well the city inspector which must by law inspect the right-of-way portion of the pour before it is poured to insure it meets city code put the kabosh on that plan. Instead, we had to pick an arbitrary point in the road, cut their asphalt away and pour our concrete flush to the road. That way when they come back in the future to put a new layer of asphalt on the road, they can slop it over the top of my new concrete and recreate the same problem I had before. Sometime I just have to wonder what they were thinking. Also, their asphalt road falls off about three inches from where we meet with it flush to where it tapers off at the edge of the road two feet away. This leaves a three inch lip of exposed concrete that can potentially be hit by a road plow in winter. About the only thing I can do to prevent that is to slop some hotpatch in the corners but it will just flake off in a year or two at best. In the two years I've live here I've never seen the road plow get that close to the edge of the road but there is always a first time.

Finally, while sitting on the deck one evening enjoying life, I pointed my phone camera upwards for a change. The clouds kept changing so eventually I went inside and got the SLR and took more pictures but I haven't yet downloaded them. Perhaps sometime in the future I can post a few of them if they turn out nice.

Friday, September 26, 2014

I hate popcorn!

I pretty sure I have said how much I hate popcorn ceiling on this blog. I did my first popcorn removal on a small bedroom downstairs a couple years ago and it was a slow and very laborious process. With a large garage full of popcorn on the ceiling, I wasn't keen to do this process on four times the area. But I'm getting ahead of myself a bit.

After jacking up the sagging corner of the house and getting the drywall back in place and mudded, it looked so nice that I hated the rest of the walls full of holes and defects. So I mudded them as well so that they were looking nice however on one side of the garage, the side I jacked up, the intersection between the wall and the ceiling had suffered damage to the drywall tape so I worked on fixing that. All the while I kept glancing over at the popcorn ceiling thinking that there had to be a better way.

That evening I caught part of a home improvement show that I don't normally watch on television. The premise is that a couple buys a fixer upper house and the couple showing it to them fix is up into their dream home. The buying couple commented (with dread) on how the house was full of popcorn ceilings (my thoughts too) but the host cheerily said that it was easy to scrape off the popcorn leaving behind enough that it still was a slightly textured ceiling and then paint over it. I was intrigued. My first and only attempt had scraped it down completely to the drywall and that last little bit was always the hardest without gouging into the drywall paper.

I scraped a small corner of the garage with a small putty knife and most of the popcorn came off really easily leaving behind a lightly textured amount stuck to the ceiling. I thought if I got a bigger scraping device, that doing the entire garage wouldn't be so bad. After looking around a bit, I found a popcorn scraper at the local home improvement store and spent a morning scraping the ceiling. It went okay but I had problems. Some places I would scrape off the popcorn leaving behind the lightly textured surface I was looking for and other places I would scrape all the way down to the drywall without any trying. The result I knew would be some areas with texture and some smooth. I tried hand scraping those areas with texture to just make everything smooth but ran into the problem I had from my first attempt a couple years ago in the basement bedroom. At this point I made the decision it was just a garage ceiling and that was just going to be the way it was.

The next day I started painting the ceiling and immediately ran into problems. As the paint went on, big flakes of the remaining texture flaked off. The more I tried to paint the more flakes came off turning the entire thing into an ugly mess. So I stopped, cried and decided I was going to do something else the rest of the day. That night as often happens, it came to me in my dreams that if wet paint made the remaining texture flake off so easily, maybe applying water with a paint roller would do so as well. On my previous attempt in the basement I had squirted it with water from a hand held weed sprayer but it just didn't let the water really soak into the popcorn base well enough to be effective. I filled a five gallon bucket with water, attached a paint roller to my extension handle and applied water directly to the ceiling as if painting it. I then climbed up a ladder with my widest putty knife in hand and scraped. The texture base came off easily and in putty knife wide sheets. I ended up rolling water onto a 4 x 8 feet area of popcorn texture base and then scraping the area which I could do with just two moves of my ladder. About two and a half hours later the entire ceiling was done and best of all, because the texture came off easier, I had very few dings and gouges in the ceiling that I had to repair. It looks a thousand times better and I'm pleased with the result. Best of all, I now have a pretty good method for doing the rest of the popcorn ceilings in our house when the time for doing them is right.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Trees and Turkeys... Oh Deer

The new sidewalk has been poured, the garage floor has been poured, the driveway is almost all poured and the first of our landscaping efforts has taken place. We got our trees planted in the front yard. From right to left is our expensive serviceberry tree which got us the free installation, northstar sour cherry, red delicious apple and mcintosh apple. Hopefully someday they will provide a screen from oncoming traffic coming up the hill as well as fruit and pretty blooms in the springtime.

I took this and the remaining pictures one Sunday morning when it seemed like the wildlife was bumping into each other using our backyard as their expressway. This was one of the does on the lookout for her yearling fawn who was grazing contentedly nearby.

This year we have seen a flock of turkeys almost all summer long on a daily basis. It comprises of four or five females and about twenty young turkeys who are almost adults at this point. They make their way across our yard pecking up bugs and things. The young turkeys even play a bit chasing and attacking each other.

They always stretch out in a line forty or fifty feet long which makes getting a good picture of them hard. If I go for getting numbers in a single frame, they are far off and not impressive. If I zoom in to get a good look, I don't get the numbers. I got a compromise shot here where I got quite a few as they bunched up on their hike across my yard. Down at the far end of the ridge, my neighbor who lives there is a well known photographer in this area and he also photographs this same flock of turkeys. Between myself and my neighbor, these turkeys probably think we are the paparazzi.

The day after posting the first picture, the very same day I took the picture of the deer and the turkeys, they made me wish I had shot them with a gun instead of camera. Before I could get my fencing up, they trimmed my three fruit trees severely. I'm not sure if they will live but I'm hoping that they still have enough to root out before going dormant and then next spring, they will leave out. When I noticed this I was sick in my stomach. Had I not has a party going on Saturday afternoon and evening, I should have installed the fence then. Sunday afternoon I could have spent the time fencing instead of taking my oldest to see a movie she had been pining for a month to see. I didn't. I kept telling myself that all the deer use the backyard and wouldn't see these trees in the front yard. I was wrong and I paid the price. The only bit of good news was that they didn't touch the expensive service berry tree. All they ate were the cheap(er) fruit trees. I guess they filled up too much on them before they got to the service berry tree.

Monday, September 22, 2014

How Fast Can a Grasshopper Go?

About 30 mph hours before he slid off my windshield. I took this picture while returning the bottle jacks from my garage jacking project. It is not often in Iowa in mid September that you see such green grass, corn and soybeans. In fact, I can't ever remember it looking this green in my lifetime this late in the year.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Moving Out

I took a picture of the progress of work on the outside of our garage so that you can see where the sidewalk now meets up with our driveway. It also shows the garage door sitting nice and level with the the far left side of the garage jacked up two and a half inches. It also shows the gutter downspout on the right side of the photo feeds into a pipe that I buried underneath the cement and hooks up to the downspout on the left side of the garage which runs underground to the ditch behind the trees in the far left background.

Unfortunately due to many inches of rain, work on finishing the driveway is on hold until things dry out. I'm taking this opportunity to work on the inside of the garage. I did some electrical outlet work while I had some of the drywall off to jack up the garage. I installed new drywall, mudded and taped it and am in the process of sanding it down and doing some touch up work as needed. Drywall is really cheap and fairly easy to do yourself with a minimal of tools but it certainly is a time consuming process. Before I paint the drywall however, I think I am going to experiment on the garage ceiling which has the dreaded popcorn texture. Our entire house is full of the stuff and I hate it because it traps cobwebs and you are forever sweeping the ceiling and then sweeping the floor to clean up the popcorn texture that fell off while you were removing the cobwebs. A couple years ago I removed the popcorn in the mother-in-law suite I remodeled downstairs but sprayed it with water, waited and scraped it off with a putty knife. It was a laborious process that took forever. Since then I have heard that you can scrape it dry and end up with a 'textured' surface that looks pretty good painted. I tried a small patch with a putty knife and it looked okay but I don't want to do an entire two and a half bay garage ceiling ten feet up with just a putty knife. I found a popcorn scraper at the home improvement store that does a 12 inch swatch at a time and attaches to a broom or mop handle. It was reasonably priced so I'm going to give it a go. It also has a place to attach garbage bags to it to contain the worst of the mess. If the garage ends up looking decent and it wasn't a lot of work, I might end up doing more popcorn removal throughout the rest of the house.

Not a very good picture but all I had was my cellphone with me and the target started moving before I could get the picture taken. We have a doe and a yearling along with another doe and twin yearlings that live in our ditch. I see them just about every evening munching away at our lawn. I have also seen three turkeys and about twenty offspring roaming about several times a week in the same place pecking at bugs and things as they walk through. I haven't yet tired of them. I haven't seen the fox or its kit from last year yet this year. They perhaps moved on or went back to where they normally roamed before giving birth. Or the could still be there and I haven't seen them because foxes are pretty skittish around humans especially ones making lots of noise working on nearby garage and driveway projects.