Friday, August 26, 2011

Absolutely NOT tickled pink.

I know I've mentioned that I hate doing drywall work.  Unfortunately, it's a necessary evil when you do contracting work for other people.  Now, it's a necessary evil in my own home as I continue to patch and fill plaster cracks.  Some of the wall-to-ceiling ones are pretty bad, so I tried the paper-covered metal inside corner pieces for extra reinforcement.  They're cheap; $2.21 for an 8' section.  The downfall is that they're at a perfect 90deg angle and no corner is ever perfect.  I had to very slightly flatten the pieces a little to take out some of the angle, then they worked great.  I like the stability of metal and not having to be so gentle with the top coats of mud to avoid tearing plain folded paper.  They also don't move when a trowel is dragged down them, like paper ones can sometimes do with a difficult first coat.

Wednesday I went to Lowe's to get the corner pieces, a 4" trowel and a bucket of drywall mud.  I don't like the typical $10 five-gallon bucket contractor mix because it can get a lot of bubbles in it as it dries.  I like DAP Premium but it's $14 per gallon.  It's worth it.  It's creamier, less bubble-prone, and dries more uniformly.  Plus, it's pink when applied and turns white when it's dry so there's no guesswork.  Thursday I opened the new bucket to dump the contents into my empty square bucket I like better.  Something didn't look right. It was bright and almost fluorescent pink; not the bubble-gum color that's the norm.  I turned over the container expecting it to pour out.  It didn't.  I sat it, upside down, inside the square bucket, hit it on the bottom a couple of times, and out slid one big pink glop that retained the shape of its container.  I called DAP to see if they'd changed its formula to require thinning.  The guy said no, it sounds to be too dry and asked for the numbers from the lid to see if there may have been a bad batch run he could trace.  Here's the rest of conversation:

DAP:  On top of the lid there should be a sticker with, or just a series of numbers, stamped on. Give me those, please.
Me:  11194.
DAP:  11194?  Is there a sixth number?
Me:  No; just five.  It's clearly stamped; no smudges or anything.
DAP:  Hmmmm.  You're sure?
Me.  Yes, why?
DAP:  Because here's how you read those numbers.  The first number is the plant number, 1.  The second number is the year of manufacture, also a 1.  The third number is the month, the fourth is the day and the fifth is the batch number. 
Me:  So, the 1 means 2011 like if there was a 0 it would mean 2010?
DAP:  No, the 1 means 2001.  It was made in plant 1, January 9, 2001 and it's batch 4.  When did you buy it?
Me:  Yesterday.

Trust me, I was not happy. Especially since this Lowe's is about 15mi from my house and the problem was discovered late afternoon when I'd get stuck in school and work traffic.  So my work for the rest of the day came to an unexpected halt.  It'll be returned where I bought it as I'm not going to stick a good store with another's lame mistake.  There's a large event going on through the weekend that backs up traffic for miles in every direction near the offending Lowe's so as soon as it's over, I'll be going back with my fossilized construction material and an equally dry attitude.

UPDATE:  I returned the dried out drywall compound last night, and asked to speak to a manager so this wouldn't happen to anyone else.  I showed him the top of the container and explained what the DAP representative told me about reading the code.  He was as flabbergasted as I was as to how something over ten years old would still be on the shelf.  We walked over to the remaining stock and found two more containers with the same series of numbers and only one that was current.  He had no explanation, but I really didn't expect one since neither of us knew the product was expired.  I've always appreciated Lowe's for their customer service, but was really blown away when I took the new container of compound and a putty knife to the register and was told there would be no charge for either because of the mistake and inconvenience.  I went into the store somewhat expecting a disagreement, since a lot of stores treat returns as if they're the customer's problem and not necessarily a faulty or incorrect product.  I left the store a very satisfied customer, glad there are still a few businesses left in the "big box" sector that know how to cultivate their business in a positive manner.  DAP, however, should be more customer and retailer friendly by putting dates that are not encrypted on their containers. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Git The Crambaby Sauce!

I can never think of cranberry sauce without thinking of one of my best friends from high school.  His niece was really young at the time and couldn't pronounce cranberry so she called it crambaby sauce.  Kind of gross if you try to visualize it in a literal sense.

At 4:15 yesterday afternoon, I caught a glimpse out the sunroom windows of something moving in the neighbor's back yard, near the pond.  Moving closer to the windows to get a better look, I counted around a dozen wild turkeys.  They were large and healthy-looking.  Feathers all in place and walking proudly.  Most of the ones that hang around my mother's house are smaller and often have disheveled feathers so it was nice to see this rather Audubon Society-esque scene right at my own back yard.  Not wanting to spook them, I quietly stepped outside to get a quick photo, but this is the best one I could get.  My cell phone camera is awful, plus they started cautiously easing into the woodline as they heard the dry grass under my feet.

If you squint, cock your head slightly, and bite your tongue just right, you might be able to see the turkeys I circled.

And, so I don't get chased down by some turkey rights organization, I am not going to hurt them.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Oh, Deer.

Whatever did deer do for food before discovering vegetable gardens?

A few days ago, I made the daily visit to the garden after work to pick whatever was ready.  I was shocked to see the purple hull pea plans had pretty much been "topped."  Several plants around the perimeter of the bed had all the top leaves missing.  The stems were still intact, but no leaves.  My immediate thought was to look for a worm.  Tomato hornworms can do very serious damage in a very short amount of time, but I was baffled because peas aren't something they attack, and it's too late in the year for them.  My second thought was, "Did I miss this yesterday?" Then it hit me:  DEER.  I'd been fortunate thus far to not have them bother anything.  I've seen them next door and suspected they probably stayed close by as the area is heavily wooded and there's a pond behind my house.  Growing up in the country does have its advantages; one being that you learn remedies to repel deer and other animals detrimental to a garden's well-being (except voles...don't have those in Tennessee).  Here are some of the more well-known ones and you can see why we never tried most of them:

1)  Break eggs and pour them around.  Brian would love this remedy.  Go out to potty and get a free snack.

2)  Human urine.  Nothing like eating food you're not totally sure pee hasn't touched.

3)  Human hair.  Just what I want.  Barber shop clippings from unknown nappy heads in with my vegetables.

4)  Coyote urine.  Because this is so easily available.  I'll check Harris Teeter.  Again, the pee factor.

5)  Ammonia-soaked rags.  At least I won't faint while weeding.

6)  Smelly socks.  Great dietary aid.  Walk into where food's growing and smell a locker room, instead.

My grandfather had tried many pest deterrents, but the most effective and long-lasting was strong bar soap.  Irish Spring was the soap of choice with its pungent smell.  He'd cut a bar in several pieces, put each piece in a small tied-up section of pantyhose leg, and hang them from stakes placed around the perimeter of the garden.  Even the gentlest breezes would circulate the scent.  They lasted well through rains, and rain actually helped renew the aroma.  I've used soap to help protect tulips and other precious plants that deer love, and it works miraculously well.  Unfortunately, when I discovered the pea massacre I didn't have any Irish Spring just lying around and was too lazy to drive and get some.  Moth balls work fairly well for most animals, so I laid out a few around the pea bed.  The next day, there was more damage to the peas and the beginning of the munchies on the lima beans.  I picked up the moth balls from the ground, thinking the scent must not be able to permeate the air, and hung them in a couple of old onion and potato bags.  The following day brought, "Now they're just mocking me."  They had hit both beds all around the moth ball bags.  I had stopped on the way home and got a six pack:  of Irish Spring.  I quartered two bars and cut some thin scrap fabric into squares, placing a piece of soap in the middle of each.  I loosely tied each bundle with tomato twine and hung them around the deer buffet.  It's still dark outside when I leave in the mornings for work, so I couldn't look today to see if they'd been back.

With the sheer sarcasm the deer displayed with the moth ball bags, they probably took the soap and used it to take a bath in the pond.  Complete with a tiny washcloth.

The one on the far left is singing Ernie's "Rubber Ducky" song from Sesame Street.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Say No to Crack

In my last post, I'd mentioned maybe fixing the plaster cracks on my next day off.  That didn't happen.  I got sidetracked on stripping the narrow moulding that goes around the double doors.  Even though I had to strip through five thick layers of paint on tedious millwork and was outside for hours in 90deg weather, I enjoyed it more than what was planned.  I could have endured my shoulder surgeries without anesthesia and had a better time than doing anything that involves drywall or plaster.  Painting is high on the list of things I hate doing but using joint compound ranks higher on the hatred scale.  The only conclusion I can draw to explain my almost irrational abhorrence for both is I am such a perfectionist when it comes to that type of work because it's so visible.  I'd sat in the house since completing the partial bathroom make-over, many days not wanting to work on anything since I didn't have the money to start on what I wanted rather fixing what I could with what I already had.  Practicality and boredom eventually took over and, part of Wednesday and yesterday, the crack repair began in the living room.  It's not terribly difficult; just time-consuming and messy.  Some of the cracks are fairly large, as you can see in the photos.  The smaller or hairline cracks have to be cut a little wider with a utility knife to give the mud more room to "take" and that leaves dust and crumbles everywhere.  Self-adhesive fiberglass tape is used in place of paper tape, as it is stronger and less likely to tear or split if the plaster shifts again.  The first coat of mud is applied, and seeps through to fill the gap .  Thus far, there have been around 25 first-coat patches with five more to go, not counting the corners and the ceiling one that goes the full-length of the room.  I also mudded the build-in gaps around the double doors that were installed a couple of months ago.  (On a side note, the moulding stripped wonderfully and looks very nice reassembled onto its counterparts around the door.) Every inside corner, including wall-to-ceiling, has to be repaired.  Those especially test my patience and I'm sure some things will be said that will slick back Brian's ears.  I think, for the corners, I'll get the metal reinforced tape to help form a solid and smooth foundation.  They are now somewhat irregular and uneven so trying to use folded paper tape (can't fold the fiberglass kind) may result in my spontaneous combustion.  After all the first coats are done, I'll start on the second.  It's easier, then, to keep up with what I've done and encourage me to keep moving forward.  The difference in the way the room looks already is pretty amazing.  My plan is do all the plaster repair throughout the house prior to painting.  For one, it's cheaper and secondly, it keeps me focused on one task.  Here are a couple of pictures.  One darker one, where the wall is half green, is where a built-in bookcase sat.  There were several cracks and holes behind there.  The corner one has yet to be fixed.  Both are examples of the typical cracks I've been filling throughout the room.  I'll post "after" pictures when they're all finished.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Purple Pea-ple

Finally!  Something else ready to pick that seems to be healthy.  I checked on the purple hull peas I'd been eyeballing ever since they started to grow, patiently waiting for them to turn the exact perfect shade of deep purple.  As there are only maybe twelve plants, I know I won't get massive amounts, but I'll just be happy to get enough for a good meal or two.  Today I picked about twenty to twenty-five pods and, when shelled, almost filled a cereal bowl.  They're in the freezer now, awaiting more of their friends to make enough to cook for dinner.  When I was little, I used to help my mother pick and shell peas; bushels of them.  What I didn't remember about that experience was this:
World's most expensive Boston butt in the background
Purple fingers!

It didn't wash off with a regular hand washing, but it came off when I did the dishes.  Thank goodness.  People at work think I'm odd enough already without wondering if I'm morphing into Grimace or Barney.

The past few days I've been looking around the house and am beginning to get inspired to start working on it again.  I can't decide if I want to start patching plaster cracks (I despise drywall work) or ripping up the kitchen floor.  The kitchen floor has about 1/4" particle board topped with gen-u-ine asbestos-laden linoleum and God only knows what else lurks in there.  But, it's over the original hardwood floor.  I pulled up about a 1.5' x 1.5' piece of the particle board a while back to snoop, knowing that the floor definitely couldn't be made 1/2" to 3/4" thicker by putting down tile over everything already there.  The hardwood doesn't look too bad in that small square.  If there's a large area in poor shape, it will get the same tile as the bathroom floor since that was my first plan.  It's a big decision; tile is kind of permanent and if you've ever had to tear any out, you'd never want to do it again.  Whatever I choose is the way it will be for as long as I live here.  At this point all I can do is the tear-out, which has to be done regardless of keeping the hardwood or tiling.  I'm very short on cash and wouldn't be able to go ahead with the whole job, including re-working a cabinet to accomodate an 18" dishwasher (courtesy of my mommy 'cause that's how she rolls).  I refuse to buy a new cabinet base, instead choosing to re-work the existing one.  I'll also build and tile a new countertop and get the sink reglazed since it's one of those neat ones with the built-in drain board and probably weighs 150lbs.  Keeping and refurbishing an old kitchen is trickier than starting anew but anyone that's had kitchen work done will tell you two things right off the bat:  1)  it's expensive, even if you do it yourself.  2)  it's highly inconveniencing no matter who does the work.  Kitchens aren't really something that can easily be done bits at a time and keep your sanity, especially when you're an organization freak like me.

I think my decision has been made.  It looks like the plaster cracks are getting first dibs.

Hello HEPA filter vacuum, plastic vapor barriers, and a respirator.  Goodbye crackety-cracked walls, restful days off and evenings, and a halfway decent manicure.

Monday, August 1, 2011


I figured Dogstar was an appropriate title since it's another name for Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.  Brian's "sirius-ly" the brightest star in my own personal sky. 
He was chosen to be the featured Boston on the blog "Coffee with a Canine."  My boy's international now!  The blogger has dogs on there from all over the world.  It makes me feel like he's even more special than I already knew.
Thought you all might want to see.