Tag Archives: Darryll Mech (DCM H&C)

2016/03/04-06 (F–N) BTCRVR Conclusion

2016/03/04 (F) Pre-departure Prep

I was up much later than normal last night trying to write my blog post for yesterday, get our network back online, and get my computer usable again.  I managed to do all of that, and was finally able to check my e-mail and off-load the photos I took earlier in the day to my computer and back them up to our NAS.  I saw some late night TV programs along the way and it was 2 AM when I finally got to bed.  On the plus side, I was tired, fell asleep right away, and slept well until 6 AM when the rain and the cats woke me up.  I got up, closed the roof vents, put a scoop of food in their bowls, and went back to bed.

Linda walks a lot but finds it difficult to just stand, and we did a lot of standing yesterday, both at the Edison Ford Estates and on the drive through the Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, so she was a bit sore and tired from yesterday’s outing.  She got up around 7 AM this morning and I got up to stay an hour later.  I made coffee and she toasted bagels, which we enjoyed with some of the vegan cream cheese she picked up the other day at Publix.

We only have three nights left for this winter season at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) and we have been trying to prepare for our departure on Monday in small increments.  Chores that we accomplished before lunch included:

  • (B) Checking the bus tire pressures. I had to add 2.5 PSI to the passenger side steer tire.  That required me to get the air compressor out, along with the hose and air-chuck, and then put it all away; a lot of work for 2.5 PSI, but it had to be done.  It  reminded me, however, of how much I would like to have a built-in high pressure air-compressor and tank with distribution lines running to the four corners of the bus and terminating in air hose fittings.  That would allow me to just use a short (curly) air-hose that is easily moved to each position and takes very little space to store.
  • (B) Checking the windshield caulk. It was a mess and had water behind it that apparently kept it from setting up (curing) correctly.  I tried to fix it by pressing the water out but that just made a bigger mess.  I was going to test it for leaks with a hose but changed my mind after seeing the mess that was already there.
  • (B) E-mailing Pat and Vickie about the March 11 rocket launch at Cape Canaveral.
  • (L) Vacuuming the interior of the bus and mopping the floor.
  • (L) Cutting my hair.
  • (B) Calling Butch. He and Fonda were still in Quartzsite but planned to leave tomorrow or Sunday and take 3 to 4 weeks to get home.  Butch was actually in Phoenix with a ham radio buddy on their way to the Ham Radio Outlet (HRO) store when I called but was able to chat for a while.

Lunch was vegan hot dogs and sliced apples.  After lunch Linda got a text from her sister, Sr. Marilyn, informing us that her 50th Jubilee is scheduled for August 6 (this year).  That immediately changed our plans for the second half of this coming summer and the first half of the fall.  Our plan was to attend two RV rallies in the northeast U.S. and then visit the Prevost Car Inc. factory in Quebec enroute to the Canadian Maritimes, from which we would work our way back through New England in the early fall, arriving home by mid-October in time for Nickolas Guy-Erickson’s wedding on the 21st.  I was going to call FMCA today and register for the national rally in Springfield, Massachusetts, but the dates are August 3 – 6, so that clearly was not going to work.

We are committed to attending the Escapees RV Club 56th Escapade in Essex Junction, Vermont, which starts Sunday, July 24th, as we are both working the event as staff.  We will have to be there sooner, but do not know the exact date yet.  Departure will be on Friday the 29th, which gives us plenty of time to make it to St. Louis, Missouri before the Jubilee.  Still, the news suddenly left us with a whole lot of new decisions to make.  It will also allow us to attend the August CCO/GLCC Back-to-the-Bricks Rally in Clio, Michigan, and the September GLCC Surplus & Salvage Rally in Elkhart, Indiana.  Indeed, it opens up the possibility of building the barn this summer and/or having Daryl Mech, from DCM Heating and Cooling, install a new air-conditioning system for the house.  The one thing we knew for sure was that we were not going to travel from Vermont all the way to Missouri and then turn around and head to Quebec or the Maritimes.  That will have to wait for some other year.

Our afternoon chores included doing the laundry and updating my iPad, which I did while waiting for the laundry.  But first I loaded up a few additional recyclables and drove over to the Turner Center to drop them off.  There was some sort of problem at the NW corner of FL-70 and Turner Avenue that involved police, fire, and EMS vehicles and personnel, and had traffic tied up in every direction.  I managed to make the turn from westbound FL-70 onto Turner (which only goes north from there) but decided not to return by that route.  I headed east from the Turner Center but was not able to cut through Arcadia Village as the north (rear) entrance is gated.  The first available north-south road that went through to FL-70 was many miles farther east, but it made for a nice drive in the country.  I stopped at Walmart for grapes and bananas before returning to our RV resort.

We had planned to go swimming in the late afternoon and then take showers but it did not work out that way.  I would normally dump the two holding tanks before we travel, but I did not want to this time as I want to slosh the ingredients around on the drive from Arcadia to Webster.  As such, I am trying to get them reasonably full, but not so full that I have to dump them.

For dinner Linda made nice, large salads.  After dinner Linda went down to Mara’s motorhome to take care of her cats.  I called Chuck but he did not pick up so I left him a message.  Friday night TV is a bit of a wasteland so I edited the last few blog posts for November 2015.   I then selected a photo that Linda took of me standing in front of a Mysore Fig tree at the Edison Ford Estates to use in her next PhotoPostCard for Madeline.  She also made a post card for our grandniece, Lilly, using the photo of the baby alligators from Everglades National Park.  I found a photo of Lilly that her mom, my niece Amanda, had taken and set that to Linda to use to make a “sticker” to put on the photo post card.  I decided to purchase a license (lifetime) for the Faststone Image Viewer software and took care of that.

When Linda returned from her cat sitting duties we made the bed, had a few grapes and a small glass of wine (Barefoot Riesling), and turned in for the night.

2016/03/05 (S) Mara & Michael Return

It was pleasantly cool last night, with temperatures in the 60’s at bedtime and headed towards an overnight low in the upper 50’s; in other words, perfect sleeping weather.  And sleep we did.  Linda got a text message from Mara letting us know that she and Michael were waiting to disembark from the cruise ship and indicating that they had a wonderful time.  They were planning on stopping at a Whole Foods Market and wanted to know if Linda needed anything.  Linda requested plum vinegar, seitan, and vegan ricotta cheese, items we cannot find in Arcadia.

Linda got up around 8:15 AM and showered.  I got up at 8:30 AM, made our coffee, and then took my shower.  As a result of these showers, which we were going to take at the shower house, I am going to have to make some decisions today or tomorrow relative to dumping our holding tanks and adding fresh water.  We don’t need very much fresh water in the on-board tank for the trip to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort in Webster on Monday and I would like to dispense with that weight in favor of keeping the black- and gray-water tanks mostly full.  The idea is that the motion of the coach will create an agitation effect which will help clean the tanks.  (I don’t really expect that it to happen, but it’s worth a shot.)

We had a slow leisurely morning as we lingered over our coffee and had granola with blueberries and bananas for breakfast.  Linda and Mara arranged for the four of us to have dinner together this evening so she made a grocery list.  I downloaded a new game named Wood Puzzle and tried it.  It’s a little bit like Tetris, but without constantly moving pieces, so it was somewhat fun.  I was never a big fan of Tetris.

Linda left at 10:30 AM to tend to Mara’s cats and then walk to the Winn-Dixie supermarket.  I got dressed, checked my e-mail, got the registration code for Faststone Image Viewer, and entered it into the software.  I checked the notifications in RVillage and visited the RVillage Stakeholders Group.  Curtis had posted a link to an “explainer video” so I e-mailed the link to our iPads.  I then gathered up the bedspread and large bath towels and headed to the laundry room.

While I was waiting for the laundry I finished yesterday’s blog post, uploaded it to our Dropbox, started today’s post, and played a few games.  The laundry was finally dry at 1:30 PM and I returned to our coach.  Linda had already returned, done some prep work for dinner, and was out walking around the resort when I returned.  She wanted to shop at Joshua Citrus one more time before we left so she drove there while I settled in to work on uploading blog posts!  My goal was to upload the remaining posts for October 2015, starting with the one for the 21st.  I accomplished that goal just before 6 PM.

Mara and Michael got back to Big Tree Carefree RV Resort mid-late afternoon and arrived at our coach for dinner at 6:30 PM.  Linda found a recipe for vegan Parmesan cheese and made some earlier in the day.  She used it to make a kale salad with almonds and a lemon dressing.  It was outstanding.  The main course was a quinoa and black beans dish that she has made before.  It was served hot and was a good choice for a cool evening.  She bought an Alamos Malbec wine (Argentina) and a bottle of Barefoot Moscato, but I was the only one drinking white wine so I finished the Barefoot Riesling we opened earlier this week.  Dessert was non-dairy chocolate ice cream with fresh sliced strawberries.

We had a good chat about Mara and Michael’s experience on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise.  There were a few speakers that we heard on the two cruises we went on, but an equal number of new speakers that we have not had the opportunity to hear in person.  Mara bought four cookbooks and left them for Linda to peruse.  It was very satisfying for us that that they had such a good experience since we were the ones that got Mara interested in the cruise and she got Michael to come along.

They left a little before 9 PM and walked back to Mara’s rig.  We watched an episode of Lucifer and then parts of two different fundraiser concerts on PBS; Brit Floyd and The BeeGees One Night Only.

2016/03/06 (N) Last Day Here

The cats were prowling by 6 AM so I got up, added food to their bowls, plugged in the charging cable for our Verizon Mi-Fi, and went back to bed.  It was already getting light and the birds were starting to chirp as if their calls were somehow responsible for the rising of the sun.  Squirrels and rabbits were, no doubt, scurrying about on the ground around our rig, as Juniper was taking it all in with her usual morning intensity.  Juniper got under the covers between us for a while and we drifted in and out of sleep in rhythm with the cats activities until 7:30 AM when we finally got out of bed to stay.

It was a bit chilly in our motorcoach, so I put on my sweats and slippers.  I made our morning coffee and then settled in on the sofa with my iPad and monogrammed throw.  I was joined by Jasper and later by Juniper as we listened to the Mockingbirds and Crows and watched the Vultures soar just above the trees as they headed out on their daily search for food.  Linda perused the cookbooks that Mara left, looking for recipes, while I put the finishing touches on yesterday’s blog post and started on today’s.

Today was our last full day at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) in Arcadia, Florida and we did not have any big plans other than a trip to one of the local supermarkets and dinner with our friends, Mara and Michael.  Mara and Linda definitely wanted to use the swimming pool one last time.  We leave tomorrow morning and Mara and Michael are pulling out on Tuesday.  We are headed north about 100 miles to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort near Webster, Florida.  Mara and Michael are headed north a much shorter distance to the Thousand Trails Preserve in Wauchula on the Peace River.  We plan to meet up with them again in Winter Haven for a quintessentially “old Florida” water skiing show.  They might also drive over to Jetty Park while we are there to see a rocket launch, assuming it actually lifts off as scheduled on the 22nd.  It is an Atlas 5 resupply mission for the International Space Station, so it would be quite an experience.

BTCRVR has been a nice, comfortable place to spend a couple of months this winter and has provided the base of operations we hoped it would for exploring south and southwest Florida.  The resort is a bit older with approximately 80% park model trailers, and I estimate that more than 90% of the units here never move.  It is a 55+ community, but most of the residents are quite a bit older than that.  It is a clean, well-kept, and attractive park, however, with nice facilities and very friendly people.

Big Tree is also an active park, with regularly scheduled events every day (morning, afternoon, and evening) as well as special events like concerts, dinners, and dances.  These activities are well attended from what we saw, and lots of folks walk, ride their bicycles (and tricycles) every day, and use the swimming pool.  Many permanent residents have their own washer and dryer so I never had a problem getting our laundry done in the laundry room.  Although the park did not have a distributed Wi-Fi system, it did have free Wi-Fi available at the office/activity building and we made use of it for downloading updates for our smartphones, iPads, and notebook computers.  Given that we updated both of our computers from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 while we were here, the Wi-Fi was very much appreciated, allowing us to use our 12 GB Verizon data plan for routine tasks such as e-mail, banking, visiting websites, browsing for information, and transferring files, all of which we prefer to do in the comfort of our coach.

I took care of sending an e-mail to a dozen friends and family members and then settled in to upload blog posts starting with November 1, 2015.  Linda went to the swimming pool at 12:30 PM and I joined her there at 3 PM.  Mara and Linda were sun bathing when I arrived but joined me in the shallow end of the pool where we sloshed around and chatted about the whole-food plant-based approach to human nutrition and our travel plans for the next year or so.  We were soaking in the hot tub / whirlpool when Michael arrived and pulled up a chair.  We all chatted briefly and then Linda and I took showers and returned to our coach.  We called our son-in-law, Chris, to wish him a happy birthday.  I then resumed uploading blog posts.  By 5:30 PM I had uploaded the posts through November 12, 2105 and stopped.  We were due at Mara’s rig at 6:30 PM for dinner so I took a short nap.

Linda gathered up Mara’s WFPB cookbooks and we walked over to her rig at 6:25 PM.  Michael served the wine and we chatted for an hour while Mara pulled dinner together.  She made a salad of julienned vegetables with a sesame seed dressing.  The main dish was quinoa, lentils, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.  Dessert was a chocolate mousse made with avocado, banana, and cocoa and served with fresh raspberries and a piece of dark chocolate.  Seriously, with food like that why wouldn’t you be a vegan?

It was going on 9 PM by the time we finished dinner so we stayed and watched the final episode of Downton Abbey.  All’s well that ends well, I suppose, and the final two hours of the series did, indeed, end well.  It was one of the most popular (most viewed?) programs ever to air on PBS, and deservedly so.  Fortunately there is a lot of quality programming available on the PBS channels and Masterpiece Theatre, along with Masterpiece Mysteries, will no doubt continue to draw large numbers of viewers in the years to come.

When we walked back to our motorcoach at 10:50 PM the night air was very crisp, the sky dark and clear, and the stars very bright.  Orion hung high in the southwest sky and the Big Dipper claimed the northeast quadrant.  If not for the light pollution of the RV resort it was the kind of night where we might have seen the Milky Way.  Back at the coach we put on a PBS program about the WW II WASPs (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots) and one women in particular who went on to continue flying into her late 80’s and logged over 40,000 hours of flight time before she stopped recording it.  We are moving to a new RV resort tomorrow so I had the lights out before midnight and quickly drifted off to sleep.


2015/09/25 (F) Miss Dig

I turned the lights out at 11 PM last night and slept until 8:15 AM this morning.  I was preparing coffee when Linda told me there were wild turkeys in the back yard.  They were gathered at the deer feed block and more showed up while we were watching.  There were 15 in all, and they were big.  We had our usual granola for breakfast with fresh blueberries, strawberries, and bananas.  We finished our morning routine and coffee at 10 AM and got back to work on the bus.

Linda continued working on removing the old wallpaper while I worked on the entry and cockpit.  She used a drywall sanding sponge to try and remove the last little bit of material from the walls she stripped yesterday and it worked rather well but not 100%.  I was able to remove the step well cover assembly yesterday and today I removed the last step before reaching the main floor.  It did not come out easily; the three screws securing it to two adjacent walls were badly rusted and the Philips heads would not hold the screwdriver bit.  I ended up prying them loose, and inelegant (brute force) but effective solution.  I am going to rebuild this step with a slightly deeper run and an open front so we can store shoes under it.  First, however, I have to tile the floor.

I spent some time examining the old tile in the driver’s part of the cockpit.  It clearly goes under the accelerator pedal but around the brake pedal.  That’s reasonable as the accelerator is electrical, with only a cable that goes through a small hole in the floor, while the brake is pneumatic and the major part of it is in the bay below the floor with all of the air lines connected to it.  I came to the conclusion that the tile was also installed under the seat base, which means Creative Mobile Interiors removed the base to install the tile.  I did not come to a final decision regarding removing the tile versus tiling over it, but I am leaning towards removing it.

I was also able to determine that the retaining nut on the swivel bases for the pilot and copilot seats was 15/16″ and accessible from the rear with the seats moved forward.  That means I can remove the seat, 6-way power base, and swivel plate as one assembly by removing one nut.  I will then have excellent access to the pedestal mounting bolts and the driver’s area once everything else is out of the way.

Rebecca from Shutz HVAC called at 10:30 AM and arrived about 15 minutes later.  Shutz is the HVAC installation contractor for the Lowe’s in Howell and she was here to look at our main air-conditioning system and give us a quote on a new Trane system as that is what Lowe’s sells.  Lowe’s had a Pro Show on Wednesday and Rebecca was staffing the Shutz table so we stopped to chat.  She let us know that everything at Lowe’s was on sale through tomorrow at closing for 10% off with our Lowe’s credit card, including installation labor.  The card is automatically good for 5% off on any product purchase so the extra 5% is not enough of an incentive to cause us to make the purchase, but we were curious what a new system might cost.  I will get a quote from Darryl at DCM, however, before making any decisions.  Also, our friend Mike (W8XH) recently had an A-C system installed and was very happy with the company, product, and installation so I will find out who he used and get a quote from them too.

Rebecca was very nice and very knowledgable.  After looking at the condenser/compressor outside I got a step ladder and she went up in the attic to look at the old air-handler/evaporator.  The system is a Coleman and we have no idea how old it is; we just know that it did not do a good job of cooling the house this summer.  The quote was for a “3 ton” system for $7,800.  With 10% off it came to $7,020 but that price was based on flushing, testing, and reusing the existing refrigerant lines, which did not sound like a good idea to me.

Charles from USIC (Miss Dig) showed up around 11:30 AM to mark the utilities.  Phil plans to start digging and grading next week, hopefully Tuesday.  Charles came to the front door and I excused myself from the air-conditioning conversation to walk the property with him.  I explained what we were having done and showed him where the work would take place.  He marked the main gas line along the entire length of our property, a portion of the branch line going to our meter, the tie in for the branch line to the house across the street, and the T at the northwest corner of our property where the main line splits to service the court.  He also marked the phone line, which runs underground from a pole west of our house to the southwest corner of our garage.  The main electrical service runs underground with the phone line but someone else has to come out and mark that.  I chatted with Charles briefly before he left and then called Phil and left him a message.

Last summer Darryl from DCM Heating and Cooling installed a new natural gas furnace with an air conditioner for our library, a natural gas heater in our garage, ran all of the black iron pipe, including 160 feet of 2″ line, hooked us up to the gas meter, and got everything working for just under $11,000.  The Trane system would be bigger than the one for the library, and the air-handler in the attic is a more difficult installation, but $7,800 for just the air-conditioner without new refrigerant lines seemed a bit high.  After Rebecca left I called and left a message for Darryl.

Linda was ready to strip the wallpaper behind the built-in sofa so we moved the two desk pedestals onto a blanket on the kitchen floor in the bus and unscrewed the seat and set it on top of the desk pedestals.  When I finally got back to work on the bus I removed the cover for the front OTR HVAC system and set it aside.  I was trying to get access to the underside of the wood trim that includes a grab handle that needs to be tightened but had a look around first.

I noticed a damper controlled by a flexible cable and figured it was what determined if the air was fresh or recirculated.  I turned the knob on the dashboard and saw the cable move but not the damper.  The damper was stuck so I loosened it by hand but the knob still did not cause it to move.  I then noticed that the sheath of the flexible cable had come loose from its retaining clip.  It was a tight spot in which to work but I was able to loosen the two screws holding the clip using a right angle screwdriver.  I slipped the sheath under the clip, tightened the screws enough to hold it, and turned the knob.  It worked!  On a day when I did not feel like I was accomplishing very much this was a tangible and unexpected success.

I removed the only four visible screws from the wood trim but it would not budge.  I had tried removing it once before without success but was determined to get it loose this time.  The only reasonable explanation was that CMI had glued it on after tightening the grab handle as part of the initial work we had them do right after we bought the coach.  I carefully worked a pry bar under the passenger side end and gradually applied force to it.  It was, indeed, “glued” on but it appeared that I would be able to pry it loose without breaking anything if I took my time.

When I did finally get it off I could see that they had used clear silicon (adhesive) caulk to attach it to a dark gray plastic piece.  Royale Coach had originally attached it to this plastic piece using four screws.  The plastic piece turned out to be the lower windshield defroster duct and I am considering how we might finish this without replacing the wood trim.  Wallpaper is currently at the top of my list but I doubt that it would be a good solution.  Of further interest to us was the wood itself.  We presumed it was maple based on the color but were puzzled why they would have used a different wood in the entryway.  Once we saw the back side, however, it was obviously walnut that lightened where it was exposed to light to the point of looking like maple.  There is other wood in the entry and copilot area that is equally light and we now realized that we had a refinishing task and not just a cleaning task, ahead of us at some point.

My next task was to scrape as much of the caulk off as I could.  I got a lot of it off, but not all.  Silicon caulk is difficult to remove.  I eventually found a single edge razor blade holder and blade and used that to get the last bit off.  I then worked on removing layers of masking tape from the edges of the base where the former step well slide was installed.

I have some carpentry to do to rebuild the steps and prep them for the tile installation and needed some materials and supplies so I went to Lowe’s and got:

  • Adhesive remover;
  • A 4’x8′ sheet of 3/16″ SurePly underlayment;
  • Two 3/4″ x 2.5″ – 6′ poplar boards;
  • A 15/16″ open or closed end ratcheting wrench;
  • A bottle of Piranha Wallpaper remover;
  • A Piranha wallpaper remover sponge;
  • A pack of 2,000 18 gauge 3/4″ long x 1/4″ crown staples;
  • A pack of 25 sheets of 120 grit and a pack of 25 sheets of 220 grit 1/4 sheet sandpaper.

I got 10% off the total bill! which was nice.  I did not get a palm sander as they were out of the Porter Cable model I wanted.  The Lowe’s in New Hudson showed two in their inventory so we will stop there tomorrow after breakfast and get one.  I also needed a half sheet of 3/4″ plywood to make a new platform to replace the step well slide but did not feel like dealing with that.

For dinner Linda heated some butternut squash ravioli she bought at Whole Foods.  She served it with sliced vegan Italian sausage cooked with mushrooms, onions, and garlic, a side dish of steamed fresh green beans, and a glass of Moscato.

After dinner I uploaded my blog posts for July 23 through 31 plus a gallery post of 11 photos I got from Jarel Beatty of the custom walnut desk in the process of being built in his shop.  I got a call back from Darryl and we discussed the new air-conditioning system.  He said he would get me a price but advised us not to let anyone reuse the old refrigerant lines.  If they are not 100% clean the old refrigerant will contaminate the new system.  If Shutz installs the Trane system it comes with a 10 year parts and labor warranty, but it would still be a hassle to deal with getting a contaminated unit repaired or replaced.

After chatting with Darryl for a while we agreed that there wasn’t any urgency to this.  For one, we need to have Darryl check the current system for leaks, and assuming it does not have one, for proper refrigerant charge, cooling capacity, and airflow.  Darryl is busy doing heating systems at the moment, but is willing to do the maintenance work.  Also, the cooling season is done for this year and we will be traveling during the hottest part of next summer.  A final factor is that this has been another expensive summer for us with the new roof on the house, the interior remodeling of our motorcoach, and the work Phil is about to do, so we would prefer to defer this expense.


2014/09/16 (T) Boiled Over

Our son (Brendan) texted Linda early this morning to see if we would like to have grand-daughter Madeline spend the night while Marilyn is here next week.  It turns out that next week Thursday and Friday are Jewish holidays, and Madeline attends a Jewish run day care facility.  Of course we said “yes.”

Linda worked at her desk on our personal finances in the morning, worked on her counted cross-stitch project for a while in the afternoon, went on a couple of long walks, and managed to get breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the table.  But as days go, it was fairly low key even for her.

I called Country Squire Fireplace and Lighting in Howell and asked for Bob as I had been instructed to do.  It was Bob’s day off but I got to talk to Mark.  Mark told me that they can get a 12′ hose with a 3/8″ flare fitting on one end and quick disconnect on the other end.  The QD includes the male fitting attached to the hose and the female fitting that gets threaded onto the supply pipe.  We already have a female QD fitting (Marshall Brass BC0102-0600) but it may not be compatible.  I had measured before I called and knew that we needed at least an 8′ hose, so 12′ will work just fine, especially since two feet of it has to go up through the base from the back and then out the top of the base and attach to the grill.  Mark asked me to call back tomorrow and talk to Bob to order it, so that is what I will do.

I double checked online that the range we had ordered was indeed a natural gas model.  It was, so there was no need to call the appliance store to confirm that.  I had a call back from Darryll at DCM Heating & Cooling.  He thought he would be able to come back on Friday or Saturday to hook up the gas from the meter to the house and the new black iron pipe and start up the two new furnaces.  All of the other gas conversion work we need done is dependent on Darryll getting his piece done first and I asked him if it would be possible to come on Wednesday.  He said he would check his schedule and see what he could do.  Darryll has been great to work with, and I try not to be demanding, but I cannot schedule other contractors until there is gas to the house.

I checked the label on our Weil-McLain “boiler” that provides heat for our hot-water baseboard heating system and domestic hot water.  It’s a GV-5, Series 1.  That allowed me to hone in on the right manuals on the W-M website from which I was able to identify the part number for the LP –> NG conversion kit.  It’s a 510-811-630 and consists of an orifice plate and an adhesive label that has to go on the unit.  The unit is a discontinued model, but service parts appear to still be available.  I found the conversion kit at the first online supplier I checked for under $31 (plus S&H) but delivery looked to be 2 – 3 weeks.  Ugh.  I placed a call to TOMTEK HVAC in Howell to see if Tom had checked on this yet.  He hadn’t so I gave him the model and serial number of our unit and mentioned that I had found the orifice plate online.

I worked at my desk for a while uploading blog posts from the last third of August, but it was such a beautiful day that I decided to work upstairs on my iPad2.  I called Bratcher Electric around 4 PM just to give them a “heads up” that we had a meter with natural gas.  Karen gave me Mike’s cell phone number and a time window during which I would likely be able to reach him.  He has been very busy doing estimates for storm damage repairs and has not been in the shop much the last month.  I got hold of him to let him know that we might be ready for them as early as next Monday, but anytime in the next couple of weeks after that would be OK.  Again, I try not to be unreasonably demanding, and I try to be truthful with folks.  Sometimes, however, that just results in us being put at the back of a long line of people who are unreasonably demanding.

Linda made maple baked lentils with sweet potato and apple for dinner.  It really hit the spot on a cool evening.  After dinner I continued working on selecting and editing photos for a gallery post on the natural gas pipeline work.  My cell phone cannot receive calls in the basement but it can receive txt messages and notifications.  Tom had called back from TOMTEK regarding the boiler conversion.  He can get the parts locally in about four days and wants $250 to do the conversion plus $59 for the service call.  A total bill of $310 to install a $30 part (retail) sounded excessive to me, so I may make a few inquiries first thing in the morning before I call him back.

We watched Season 5 Episode 5 of Doc Martin.  It was nice to see it on the TV rather than the iPad with a large screen, better sound, a DVD quality image, and no buffering.


2014/09/05 (F) WordPress 4.0

We awoke to temperatures in the low 70’s this morning and by noon it was forecast to be 85 degrees F with rapidly rising humidity.  We turned our A-C on yesterday and left in on overnight and through the day today.

WordPress 4.0 was released yesterday and just before midnight I updated the four websites I manage, including this one.  I was looking forward to working with the new version today, but first things first.  Darryll called at 8:15 AM to make sure it was OK to come over.  We finished breakfast and then opened the garage and moved a few things that might be in his way. Although we would have liked to continue working in the garage during the morning, before it got really hot and humid, we were glad to have Darryll here working on the HVAC installation.

Instead of working on organizing the garage Linda worked at her desk and baked a loaf of bread while I assisted Darryll.  He wired up the library thermostat and showed me how the wires were connected.  He installed the return air grill, which required some minor drywall trimming, and installed a 6″ combustion air duct in the ceiling of the utility closet.  The duct had a screen on one end with a hood, like a dryer vent, and was open on the other end.  He installed it from the attic side with the hood in the attic and the open end sticking down through the ceiling into the closet.  I may decide to caulk or apply drywall compound to fill that gap between the duct and the hole Darryll made in the ceiling.

Darryll’s main focus, however, was hooking up the four pieces of duct, two rigid and two flexible, that will carry conditioned air into the library and installing the two ceiling registers.  That involved working in the attic which was very hot.  The flexible duct for the two ceiling registers was the same kind of product that was used in the main house; a pre-insulated flexible accordion tubing with an 8″ inside diameter that comes in 25′ lengths compressed to about 3′ for shipping.  To feed the two registers on the lower part of the west wall of the library he cut lengths of 8″ diameter (circular cross section) metal duct and assembled them.  He attached them to the supply air duct (plenum) with flange connectors.  He then slide insulation blankets (tubes) around them and connected the bottom ends of the duct into the back of the register ducts using several elbows to bring the duct around and close to the wall.  Finally, he slid the insulation down and secured it.

While Darryll was doing all of that I finished connecting the AC power to the condenser/compressor. That involved the following:

  • removing the terminal cover panel from the inside of the fused disconnect box
  • knocking out access holes on the right side and bottom
  • mounting the fused disconnect box to the side if the house
  • cutting a piece of 3/4″ plastic conduit for the cable from the soffit to the box
  • running the NM cable through the conduit
  • installing a watertight 90 degree elbow into the conduit
  • attaching the elbow to the side of the box
  • cutting, stripping, and connecting the line wires
  • cutting the plastic armor on the hookup cable to the right length
  • installing a straight screw-in watertight connector on the box end of the armor
  • installing a screw-in 90 degree elbow watertight connector on the condenser end
  • cutting, stripping, and connecting the load wires in the box
  • cutting, stripping, and connecting the load wires in the compressor.

I had Darryll check my work and then installed the fuses in the pull-out disconnect but was not able to get it to plug all the way in.  Darryll bent the blades slightly and got it to seat fully.  (I need to get two different fuses.  All he had were 30A fuses but 20A would be sufficient.  Also, the fuses he had in his truck were notched on one end.  I think fuses with full barrels on both ends would be better as they would have more contact surface than the notched ones.)  I reinstalled the terminal cover panel and closed the box.  I then re-installed the cover panel on the A-C compressor that Darryll had removed earlier.

With the power connected and most of the ducts run, we turned on the 120VAC/15A circuit breaker (for the unit in the utility closet) and the 240VAC/20A circuit breaker (for the compressor/condenser).  Darryll turned the thermostat mode switch to “cool” and the fan switch to auto and the A-C came to life.  Hooray!  I love it when that happens.

While Darryll finished installing the ducts and the registers I connected and mounted the thermostat for the garage furnace and then connected the wires on the other end of the cable to the terminals on the back of the unit according to Darryll’s instructions.  I removed the end panel from the Reznor ceiling-mounted garage furnace, removed the documentation packet from the inside, checked that the gas valve was in the “on” position, and put the end panel back on.  I also removed the protective plastic film from the bottom of the unit.

Darryll gathered up his tools, extra parts, and unused materials and loaded them in his truck. He then pressurized his portable air compressor and used it to pressurize the black iron gas pipe.  It has not been holding pressure, so he pumped it up to 15 PSI and we went in search of leaks with a spray bottle of soapy water.  We used my inspection mirror to see behind and under connections and found three leaks.  One was in a 2″ pipe fitting behind the garage, one was in a 2″ pipe fitting near the end of the run by the generator, and one was at an elbow in the 1/2″ pipe where it exits the utility closet on its way to the garage furnace.

Darryll was checking air temperature readings at the registers and in the main plenum of the library HVAC unit.  The library was 89 degrees F when he first turned the A-C on, and the attic was a lot hotter than that.  He connected his gauges to the compressor/condenser and said the readings were close enough to correct that he did not want to add or remove any refrigerant until the room had cooled down and stabilized at the requested temperature.

I was hoping he would get the job finished today but he needed some equipment, which he did not have with him, to work on the iron pipe and he was obviously tired from a long day working in the high heat and humidity.  He may be back tomorrow; if not, Monday or Tuesday. Whenever he returns, I have complete confidence that he will get it done before the gas meter is hung and that it will all work correctly for many years with very little attention other than changing a filter once or twice a year.

We deferred lunch until Darryll left.  We had chickpea salad on a slice of the bread Linda had baked earlier, corn-on-the-cob, and the last of some fresh pineapple.  Nothing says “summer” like organic, non-GMO corn-on-the-cob.

After lunch I called Bratcher Electric to check on the status of the estimate/quote that Mike was putting together to service our generator, convert it to natural gas, and run a 100A Service Entrance Cable from the transfer switch to the garage panel, converting it from a sub-panel to a main panel.  Karen said they have been really busy but he would work on it over the weekend.

I also called 1-800-Pack-Rat to arrange pickup of the storage container on Friday September 12th.  Steven was not able to schedule the pick-up during the call and said he would contact the local office and get back to me.  I made it clear that we did not want to roll over into another billing cycle and I was calling one week ahead of time as we had been instructed.  He assured me that it would not be a problem.  About an hour later we got a return call and follow up e-mail confirming pickup for Friday, September 12.

Late afternoon I checked on the library A-C to make sure it was not freezing up.  Everything looked OK.  The thermostat was set to 76 degrees F and the temperature was down to 77, so I bumped the setting up to 78 to let it cycle off and on.  Although Darryll did all of the heavy lifting on this project (literally) I spent my fair share of time in the attic on warm days installing the pull-down folding ladder and working on electrical wiring and attic lights.  It was very gratifying to see that all of this work—his, mine, and Linda’s—finally result in something that operated correctly.

We were relaxing and reading when severe weather watches and warnings for our area started arriving on our iPads.  Naturally we went outside to see what was going on.  We were both born and raised in the Midwest, the St. Louis, Missouri area, to be exact, and as kids in the 1950’s, threatening weather was a form of summertime entertainment.  Not that we were stupid; we learned from the adults around us when the show was over and it was time to head to the basement.  When I was about 5 years old we lost a plum tree in our backyard to a close encounter with a tornado.

The gathering storm.  The clouds were very dramatic in all directions.

The gathering storm. The clouds were very dramatic in all directions.

The clouds were very dramatic but eventually gave way to a formless mass of gray with swirling winds and a few raindrops.  We checked the Weather Channel app and the Weather Underground Wundermap app on our iPads.  The radar returns showed that we were likely in for some rain, and we got some, but as often happens the worst of it passed north and south of us.  The rain we did get was very welcomed.  We had heavy rain on Monday (Labor Day), Keith mowed the grass on Tuesday, I spread grass seed around on Tuesday and Wednesday, and a flock of six wild turkeys feasted on the grass seed on Wednesday and Thursday. We needed a nice light rain to help the seeds germinate and take root rather than be eaten or washed away in a thunderstorm.

Storm clouds looking east.

Storm clouds looking east.

Around 7:30 PM our power flickered several times and we received e-mail messages from our generator letting us know that utility power had been lost and then quickly regained.  We decided to check the Kohler OnCue software to see what the generator was doing.  We thought sure we had installed the software on Linda’s computer, so we could monitor it from her desk in the kitchen/dining area, but it wasn’t there.  After much searching and head scratching we checked my old laptop and there it was!  When we thought about it we realized that the generator had been installed about a week before Linda started configuring her new Samsung laptop, so there was no way we had put the software on her machine.  We’ve been very, very busy the last 20 months, so it was not surprising to us that we had forgotten the exact sequence of events.


Approaching from the southwest the clouds got more ominous.

The severe warnings expired at 8 PM and the severe watches at 9 PM, but that did not mean the rain was done.  A big fetch of moisture was located south of Chicago, Illinois and moving through southwest Michigan in our general direction.  The rain was forecast to continue into the early hours of tomorrow but be done before sunrise.  When the rains finally came it rained hard for a while.  Tomorrow is forecast to be a perfect Michigan day and I plan to buy another bag of grass seed to spot seed the areas that got washed away, again.


20140827 (W) HVAC and Dentistry

The only thing these have in common (for me at least) is that they occurred on the same day.  Darryll and Alec were back this morning to continue working on our garage furnace and library HVAC project and I had a 2 PM dentist appointment to have them check if I had lost a piece of one of the abfractions they did back on June 17th.

Our dentist is in Dearborn some 50 miles to our southeast, so I try to leave 90 minutes for travel.  I got there ahead of time and they got me in about 15 minutes early.  It was a quick appointment but I was glad I went.  The hard piece of material I crunched while brushing my teeth a few weeks ago was, indeed, the abfraction material from the upper outside of tooth #11.  They replaced it under warranty and I was back on the road by 2:30 PM, which allowed me to make the trip back towards home somewhat ahead of the afternoon traffic rush.

These mushrooms appeared in the yard a few days ago as round balls and then opened up.

These mushrooms appeared in the yard a few days ago as round balls and then opened up.

I needed a saddle connector and Linda needed some “power greens” for our dinner salad so I exited I-96 at Grand River Avenue and headed towards Brighton.  There is a Home Depot right there, but they only had the 3/8ths saddle connectors in bags of five.  I only needed one, which I knew I could get at Lowe’s in Howell.  Traffic headed back towards Howell on Grand River was badly congested so I used a back route, taking Challis Road to Chilson Road to Latson Road.  The Lowe’s and Meijer’s are on opposite sides of Grand River Avenue at Latson Road.

By the time I got home Darryll and Alec had left.  Darryll had indicated they would knock off early and that he would be back next week to finish up.  While they were here they set the library A-C compressor/condenser in place by the west wall of the garage and got the refrigerant lines run, the power cable routed, and the control cable run.  They also cut the openings for the two lower supply registers in the library, installed the through-wall duct work, and the register grills.  Darryll will be back during the latter half of next week to finish up.  That gives me plenty of time to finish drywall work.

Summer is coming to an end.  The parochial schools are already back in session and the public schools start on Tuesday next week.  Lots of folks are heading north for the upcoming holiday weekend which marks the end of the summer tourist season.  Fall colors have already appeared on a variety of trees in our part of the county and a few seem somewhat advanced.  Except for the last few days, it has been a cool, moist summer.

Early this morning I e-mailed Shelly from the AT&T Office of the President thanking her for calling us on Monday in response to our Michigan Public Service Commission complaint filing that morning, and for following up with her contact information by e-mail.  Our phone line is still noisy to the point of being useless, but we have not seen the dreaded “Check Tell Line” or “Line In Use” messages on our phone and the DSL has stayed connected as near as we can tell.  I am not aware, however, that AT&T has actually done anything yet to fix the problem.  They certainly have not communicated any such information to us  Unfortunately working on the SLAARC WP website and creating user accounts absolutely requires me to be reliably online, as does the Intro to Linux course I am (supposed to be) taking through edX, so these tasks may have to wait until our AT&T DSL connection has been solid for a while.


2014/08/07 (R) Endings And Beginnings

I did not sleep well last night.  I was a bit worked up about the landscaping and a bit worried about the iron gas pipe installation which looked to me like it would be difficult no matter how Darryll decided to do it.  We were both awake at 5:30 AM and finally got up at 6:45 AM and had breakfast.

The landscapers arrived early, before 8 AM, and got right to work.  Steve brought three guys and got them busy right away.  Linda and I walked the site with him, but he immediately saw more problems than we did.  There was no arguing or convincing; he seemed determined to make sure it was done right and that we were happy with the end result.  He stayed and worked alongside the crew to make sure stuff got done correctly.  They finished up around 11 AM.  We took one last look at the work and paid Steve the balance of what we owed him.  He said he would check back in 2 – 3 weeks to spot seed and fertilize the new grass.

Linda took off for the post office and grocery store around 8:45 AM and I started routing and stapling the sub-panel ground conductor along the edge of the deck by the rear library doorwalls.  Darryll (DCM Heating and Cooling) showed up a little after 9 AM with his nephew, Alec, so I took the next 30 minutes to walk through the gas pipe installation options.

Darryll decided to go with the original plan of running the pipe from the southeast corner of the house down the east side, around the corner across the back of the house under the upper deck, dropping it down and going under the middle deck, across the back of the garage just below the bottom piece of siding, around the northwest corner of the garage and up the west side of the garage to its end point behind the whole house generator.  There will be a T-fitting on the garage side of the middle deck, to supply gas into the garage for the two new furnaces, and another T-fitting at the end of the run.  One branch of the end T will have a shutoff valve and cap and will be used to supply gas to the generator.  The other branch will be capped and available should we ever decide to run a gas line to the (future) bus barn.

I determined where I wanted the sub-panel ground wire to enter the basement and drilled a 5/16″ hole an inch to the right and an inch below the water faucet that comes through the west wall of the house about 16″ back from the northwest corner above the lower deck.  This allowed me to route the ground wire around an inside corner to the hole and will allow me to tuck it up under the bottom piece of siding.

I wanted to get the ground wire into the main panel but I could not turn off the main breaker as Darryll was using electric power tools and Linda was working on her computer.  The connection will have to wait until no one is using power.  Once the ground wire is tied into the main panel I will remove the bonding screw in the sub-panel.

Linda made a different kind of bean salad sandwich spread for lunch using Great Northern beans and various other yummy ingredients.  We had some grapes and green tea to go with our sandwiches.

Having run out of construction projects for the moment I decided to work at my desk for a while, but my mind was elsewhere and I just wasn’t feeling the love.  The steps at the back door of the garage were going to be in the way of the iron pipe, so I removed them.  As long as I was out there I hung around to watch Darryll and Alec get the pipe under the middle deck.  It was a challenge, as expected, but for reasons that were unseen until Darryll tried to drill holes through the end boards.

First he encountered wet wood that kept fouling his hole saw.  Then he hit a nail, which did not enhance the performance of the saw.  It also bent his extension shaft slightly which he had to stop and straighten.  He then encountered joist hangars on each end and had to bend those out of the way.  Finally able to feed the pipe through, they encountered wood sleepers and a couple of large rocks.  They managed to go over the sleepers and push the rocks out of the way and got the pipe through.  Darryll and Alec put in a long, physically demanding day and got most of the 2″ pipe installed.  Two inch iron pipe is very impressive stuff and we were very impressed with the work required to install it.

For dinner Linda made a Farro pilaf, after which we sat on our deck and enjoyed a small glass of Riesling wine to celebrate the end of the landscaping project that has had our property torn up for the last five weeks.  We are very fortunate that we became vegans and that Linda took a serious interest in learning about whole-food, plant-based recipes, ingredients, and cooking methods just as we retired.  I shudder to think what our health would be like had we continued to eat the way we did until three years ago where, even as “vegetarians,” our diet contained a lot of eggs, dairy, and seafood, and not so much fruits and vegetables.  We watched Dr. Michael Greger’s annual summary address on NutritionFacts.org and went to sleep without the worries that interfered with last night’s rest.


2014/08/05 (T) Primary Elections

The rain started early today with a pre-dawn thunderstorm and continued off and on the rest of the day and evening.  The area beyond the basement walkout deck is a muddy mess, but Village Landscape Development has not finished grading it.  They need it to be dry, so it may be awhile before they can finish it.

Our first construction task today was to pull electrical cable up into the garage attic for three more circuits.  I wanted to get this done early in the day while it was cool and Linda’s knee was feeling better.  I had been mulling this work over last night and realized that I had probably made an incorrect assumption about the location of the 240V/20A service for the new library air-conditioner, so I put a call in to Darryll right after breakfast.  We got a call from Karen at Bratcher Electric around 9 AM to  see if it would be OK for Mike to stop by around 11 AM to look at some electrical work we need done.  He wanted to see the job in person in order to prepare a quote.

The new cable for the outlets on the west and northwest wall was already in the garage attic but I had to crawl into the low northeast corner to reach it and get it routed in the right direction.  I then had to crawl into the same corner from a different direction to pull it to the junction box I installed last week.  I secured it with cable staples and connected it to the old cable.

Next we pulled a 14-2+g NM cable from the sub-panel to the approximate location where the garage furnace will hang from the ceiling to provide a dedicated 120/15A circuit but did not install an outlet box pending a final location from Darryll.  We then pulled another 14-2+g NM cable from the sub-panel to the north end of the new west utility closet wall.  This cable will provide a dedicated 120V/15A circuit for the new library furnace.  Again, I did not install an outlet box pending a final location from Darryll.

Darryll called back and confirmed that the new 240V/20A dedicated circuit for the new library air-conditioner had to be routed to the location of the condenser/compressor on the outside of the west wall of the garage and there had to be a weatherproof disconnect within three feet of the unit.  That meant another trip to Lowe’s, but not until much later in the day.

Mike Bratcher showed up on time and I walked him through the project.  I want to re-wire the garage sub-panel as a 100A main panel by running service entrance cable from the transfer switch in the southwest corner of the garage to the sub-panel in the northeast corner of the garage.  We may also want to run power to the bus barn if/when it gets built.  Mike suggested that they go ahead and “stub out” the barn service at the same time with an appropriate disconnect.  The plan is to have them do this work at the same time they convert the Kohler whole house generator to natural gas and do the annual maintenance.  Mike also confirmed that they can take care of the natural gas connection to the generator as long as the pipe is located near the back of the unit, has a shutoff valve, and is capped.

By the time Mike left it was after noon so we had lunch.  While we ate we ordered a dual outlet phone/ADSL filter wall plate and a few other things on our Amazon Prime account and researched candidates and proposals for the primary election.  We then went to our polling station, located about two miles from our house, and voted.

This was the first election we participated in since moving to Livingston County.  As Democrats (and liberal ones at that) in this part of Livingston County voting in the primary is an exercise.  The real contest is on the Republican ticket; whoever wins the Republican primary for any given seat will almost surely win the general election in the fall.  Still, we always exercise our right to vote and there were statewide candidates and issues.

The last cable we installed today was another 14-2+g NM to provide 120V to a junction box on the utility closet ceiling.  I mounted a round white plastic junction box approximately 8″ from the east utility closet wall in line with, and slightly in front of, the sub-panel.  I installed a plastic bare-bulb light fixture with a pull chain and 3-prong outlet to the junction box.

I did not tie any of the new circuits into the sub-panel today as we have one more circuit to pull and I want all of the cables at the panel before I cut the power and remove the cover.  We were done with electrical work for today so I turned my attention to drywall surface preparation while Linda retreated to her desk to work on tax returns.  I sanded the drywall compound as smooth as I could and wiped everything down to get rid of the dust.  I then primed all of the new and old drywall on the northeast garage wall along with the plywood platform and exposed 2×12 on the front of the base.

By the time I was done and cleaned up it was approaching 5 PM, we were both tired, and we needed to go to Lowe’s, so we decided to dine out.  We went to Lowe’s first and bought a weatherproof plastic disconnect box, a couple of watertight fittings, a 10′ length of 3/4″ plastic conduit, and a 50′ role of 12-2+g NM cable.  All of this will be used to run the new dedicated circuit for the new library air-conditioner.  We then drove to the Panera in Brighton and used one of our gift cards to have a light dinner.

We were back home a little after 7 PM.  The primer was dry so I decided to paint all of the surfaces I had primed before dinner.  While I painted Linda made a batch of her incredibly yummy granola.  We had a small glass of wine and played a few games on our iPads while the granola cooled and then turned in for the night.


2014/08/04 (M) Phone Problems

My first task this morning was to sand all of the drywall compound and apply a second/finish coat to the walls I have been building/repairing in the garage.  Simple enough to describe but it took some time to do.  While the compound was drying I resumed working on electrical wiring.

Our phone went dead yesterday, or at least that’s when we noticed it was not working (no dial tone, no incoming or outgoing calls).  I got a call (on my Verizon cell phone) from Ken, the AT&T service technician, around 9 AM indicating that the phone was fixed but he was on his way to our house to verify service at the network interface box.  The phone was indeed working, but now the DSL was not.  🙁

Ken told me that he did not have a dial tone back at the distribution box and rather than diagnose why, they usually switch the customer to another wire pair.  He spent the entire morning working on the problem, making several trips between our house and the distribution box.  By the time he was done we were on different wires from our house all the way back to the switching station.  He was now getting a dial tone and an active DSL signal at our network interface box but we did not have a DSL connection at our AT&T gateway.

Ken had mentioned earlier that the phone signal requires two good wires but the DSL will run on just one.  That had raised a flag in my mind and I asked Ken if reversing the two wires might cause the problem we were seeing?  He said he had never heard of the DSL signal being polarity sensitive, but it wouldn’t affect the phone operation so he switched the wires and … it worked!  We got a momentary false alarm until we discovered that the phone cable from the DSL splitter/filter to the phone had a broken tab and would not stay plugged in.  I replaced the cable and everything was OK.

Linda was going to help me but she was on her feet a lot the last three days and her right knee was expressing its displeasure so she decided to take it easy today.  Brendan and Shawna needed to borrow the pressure washer and Linda needed a few ingredients from Whole Foods for her granola recipe, so she drove to Ann Arbor to accomplish those chores.  She stopped at Lowe’s on the way back and picked up a 50′ role of 14-2+g NM electrical cable.  Ken left around 1 PM and we had a light lunch of chickpea salad and fresh nectarines.

There are too many cables going through the wall top plate above the sub-panel in the garage for me to comfortably drill new holes to run more.  I was puzzled for a while as to what I would do, and then realized I could create openings in the ceiling (drywall) directly above the sub-panel for new wires as this area will ultimately be boxed in.  I used the Porter-Cable oscillating saw I bought a couple of weeks ago to cut a long slot for new wires.  It was the right tool for the job.  The NM cables should have fed up into the attic easily, but they didn’t.  A peak in the attic confirmed that they were running into plywood on the original garage roof.  The plywood was cut back for access purposes where the breezeway (library) roof ties in, but no more than necessary.  The sub-panel is towards the northeast corner of the garage and the original garage rafters/plywood are only about eight inches above the drywall.  I had planned to run four cables today but needed Linda’s help.  I got two of them started and then turned my attention to other things.

I had a work session of the FMCA education committee at 4 PM so I  wrapped up my construction work an hour prior to that to give me time to switch gears and get somewhat organized.  The work session was via teleconference and lasted about an hour.

We got a call around 8 PM from Darryll.  He planned to order the garage furnace, the library HVAC unit, and the 2″ iron pipe tomorrow for delivery on Wednesday and wanted to make sure that was OK.  He planned to start work on Thursday assuming the materials got delivered on Wednesday.


2014/0729 (T) Utility Closet

It was in the mid-40’s when we got up this morning so Linda made oatmeal with walnuts, dates, raisins, cinnamon, and a little brown sugar.  It was a hardy and satisfying breakfast on a chilly morning.  I checked in with some of the blogs I follow using Feedly on my iPad and then, as we were getting ready to work, Steve showed up with four workers (Kyle, Tommy, Spencer, and Mark).  Steve did not stay and work today but Mark operated the excavator and the guys got a lot done.  By the end of the day we were finally able to see how it was all going to come together.

Our focus today was the utility closet in the garage.  Much of what we did required two people, and we made a long day of it.  We finished framing the west wall, stood it up, got it into position, plumbed it, and secured it.  We then framed the south wall with the rough opening for the door.

The installation of the door was challenging.  All the framing was plumb in two directions but our first attempt at installing it resulted in the bottom latch side not closing by almost an inch when the top latch side was seated correctly.  Everything was plumb on both jambs, the door was level and plumb, but something was obviously wrong.

As we started to break for lunch I got a call from Darryll.  He was wondering if we could run the 2” iron gas pipe through the attic from the east end of house to the west side of the garage.  I told him I would check the access and call him back.  While he was on the phone I got clarification on the size and location of the HVAC unit and the ducts for the conditioned air supply and return.  As a result I will have to move a duplex outlet I installed the other day, run a new/longer wire up the sub-panel, put insulation into the lower half of the wall cavities, and install/finish a piece of drywall.

We spent the afternoon trying to figure out what was wrong with the door installation and fix it.  Everything was plumb and we thought everything was square.  It turned out that the two ends of the wall were out of alignment which was forcing the bottom of the door out.  (The inside angle between the west wall and the south wall was less than 90 degrees.)  Once we realized what was wrong we were able to fix it.

We had a green salad and Amy’s roasted vegetable pizza for supper at 6:30 PM.  After relaxing for a while on the deck with a glass of Leelanau Cellars Summer Sunset wine I secured the plywood platform to the base with screws and then caulked the two edges where it met the back and right side walls.

We drove to Lowe’s at 8 PM to get a box of steel cut masonry nails.  I need two or three to secure the free end of the bottom plate of the west wall.  While we were there I got a set of new blades for the Milwaukee Sawzall reciprocating saw but forgot to buy more shims.  We always like to leave a reason for a return trip to the home supply stores.


2024/07/22 (T) A Quiet Day At Home

We ran the air-conditioner all day yesterday and well into the evening.  It cooled off into the mid-upper 60’s overnight so we turned the A-C off when we got up this morning and opened up the house.

Ron and Mary were mostly packed before breakfast.  We all had some of Linda’s yummy homemade granola with fresh blueberries for breakfast and everyone agreed it was superior to any store-bought granola they had ever had.  We visited until 9 AM and then helped them load their car for the trip back to Pennsylvania after an all-to-short visit.  Still, it was nice to see them for the time they were here and they got to see our grand-daughter for the first time and chat briefly with our children.  They had a nine hour drive ahead of them, plus or minus, depending on traffic, construction zones, and number/length of stops.  The day was forecast to be sunny and very warm, with a high temperature at our house of 90 degrees F, but with no precipitation along their route.

Only one landscaper (Spencer) showed up this morning around 10 AM.  Steve had some hand work for him to do.  I checked to see that he had water and he assured me that he brought plenty to drink.  With the outside air temperature rising, we closed the house up and turned the A-C on.

We were both surprisingly tired but wanted to get something useful accomplished today.  Linda worked at her desk while I cleaned the concrete driveway leading up to the garage from the street.  The landscapers have been using the driveway to stage some of their bulk materials such as crushed limestone and egg rock.  They got all of that material moved to other parts of the yard over the weekend but there was a layer of dust, small rocks, and other debris left behind.  I swept most of it off the driveway with a large push broom and then finished the job with a leaf blower.

There was a lot of crushed limestone left so over the weekend I had Steve push it into a 8′ wide by 15′ long parking pad 4″ – 6″ deep off the west side of the driveway and adjacent to the woods that run along the road.  The pad still had tracks in it from the excavator treads so I raked those out, filled in some dirt around the edges of the pad, and tamped the edges down.  The pull-through driveway from the front stairs to the concrete driveway was also rutted from the Bobcat front-loader being driven on it so I raked that out as best I could.  By the time I was done it was noon, it was hot, and I was sweaty and thirsty.  I decided I’d had enough for the day, closed up the storage container and garage, came in, and drank a bottle of ICE brand water.  This water is lightly carbonated and lightly fruit flavored, and I find it very refreshing.

I had a phone message yesterday from Darryll of DCM Heating and Cooling with some information I needed in order to prepare the corner of the garage for the library HVAC unit.  There were a few things I still needed to know, so I put in another call to him and left a message.  For lunch Linda served the left over salads from last night’s dinner along with hummus and chips.  We sat on the back deck for a while enjoying the slight cooling effect of a warm summer breeze, but eventually went back inside to escape the heat.

We did not do much the rest of the day.  I apparently broke our grandfather clock on Monday while winding it and spent a little time looking for information online.  I found a Sligh manual that included some troubleshooting tips but did not get as far as trying to diagnose and fix the problem.  We were both tired and took naps in the late afternoon.  That was unusual for us but could easily become part of our daily routine, especially on hot days like we had today.

I worked on bus barn drawings while Linda prepared dinner.  I then called John to see if I could borrow his chop saw and if he had time to look at the drawings.  Linda went along and visited with Diane.  We stayed until almost 10 PM.


20140713 (N) Pack-Rat

Guilty as charged.  I am one of those guys who likes my stuff; it’s one of the main reasons we are not full-time RVers.  In order to get the garage and library ready for Darryll, and not trash the house in the process, we checked online for portable storage units.  We decided to order one from 1-800-Pack-Rat.  They were slightly less expensive than PODS, but the main factor was their ability to deliver a 16-foot long unit on Wednesday this coming week.  That will give us Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to clear enough stuff out of the garage to store the materials for Darryll and give him the space he needs to work.

Linda got a call from Butch at Service Motors to let her know they were back home from the Crosley Automobile Club national meet in Wauseon, Ohio and to see if she was available to come down tomorrow to finish up some critical accounting tasks related to the sale of most of their businesses assets.  The purchasers were in Wauseon for the rally and arrived at the business as I was chatting with Butch.  They plan to load all of the stuff they have bought into the five vehicles they brought with them and leave sometime on Tuesday, so Linda will be there mid-morning tomorrow and probably be home by 9:00 PM.  It will be a 15 hour day for her; 8 hours of driving and 7 hours of accounting, but she can/will do it.  I would normally go along, if for no other reason than to keep her company and share the driving, but I expect to have landscapers here tomorrow (and the rest of the week) and need to be here to interact with them.  Besides, there isn’t anything useful I can do at Service Motors at the moment so I would just be in the way and twiddling my thumbs.

We were both tired this morning and slept in a little later than normal.  That meant a later breakfast, which meant we skipped lunch and had an early dinner.  That, in turn allowed me to have dinner before going to our monthly Ham radio club meeting in South Lyon.

The morning overcast gave way to scattered clouds and blue skies on pleasant northwest winds, bringing cooler temperatures and lower humidity.  It was a perfect day for sitting on the (north facing) deck and doing sit down things, and that is exactly what we did.  Linda spent some time reading Veganomicon while I finished up a couple of blog post drafts and reviewed the SLAARC/WP website in advance of having to demonstrate it this evening for the ham radio club.  The site still needs work.  Some pages still need content, I found a few spelling errors, and I still need to resize photos so they take up less disk space and load faster.  The login feature is still working and the roster/database still displays correctly, if somewhat inelegantly.  But it’s functional enough to give the club members a preview and I will only demonstrate one photo gallery with a limited number of images so it shouldn’t be too sluggish.

By mid-afternoon it was warm enough that I decided to work in my office and get a few more blog posts uploaded to our WordPress site.  Linda made a “pasta e fagioli” recipe from Veganomicon and added some chopped dark leafy greens she had on hand.  She needed a dry white wine for the recipe and opened our bottle of Semi-Dry Riesling from Chateau Chantal, a gift from our daughter’s recent trip to the Traverse City area.  It was a little dry for my taste as a before dinner wine but paired very nicely with the meal.

I got to South Lyon just ahead of the 6:30 PM start of our South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) monthly meeting.  The business meeting was short.  We then had a lengthy presentation/discussion of our ARRL Field Day participation followed by a short preview of the new WordPress website.  It was generally well received and I got a few good suggestions during the discussion.

When I got home around 9 PM we had chocolate cake (vegan, of course) with raspberry sauce and relaxed for a while before turning in for the night.


2104/07/12 (S) Natural Gas

You might think that this would be a reference to the natural by-product of having breakfast with our ham radio friends in South Lyon this morning at the Senate Coney Island, but that is not the case.  We had a 10:30 AM appointment at the house this morning with Darryll Mech of DCM Heating and Cooling to finalize the work that needs to be done to get the house ready for conversion to natural gas.  The natural gas contractor for Consumer’s Energy (Roese Construction) started installing the main lines in our area a couple of weeks ago and they expect to have the project completed by September 26 (of this year).  That means we will have natural gas to the house sometime between now and then and we need to have everything as ready as we can before they hang the meter so the final conversion will be minimal and quick once the natural gas is turned on.

The work at our house breaks down into three pieces.  The first piece is running black pipe on the outside of the house from the southeast corner down the east side, across the back, under the upper and lower decks, along the back of the garage, and up the west side of the garage.  The gas meter will be installed at the southeast corner of the house where the propane currently enters the house.  The existing house piping will be used to supply natural gas to the house furnace, kitchen range, and outside grill connector.  The whole house generator is by the southwest corner of the garage and is currently on its own propane tank.  After the natural gas is hooked up everything needs to be on a single natural gas service/meter.

As the gas pipe runs along the back side of the garage there will be a T to supply gas into the garage.  That has to do with the second piece of the work.  We are having a ceiling mounted garage heater installed and a small furnace/air-conditioner for the library.  The HVAC unit will allow us to heat the library in the winter without cycling the main hot-water baseboard heating system, which is at the end of a long run through unheated attic space and is not particularly efficient or effective.  More importantly, it will allow us to control the humidity on humid summer days (it’s a library, after all, so it contains a lot of books and other humidity sensitive paper materials).  As part of that work we need to remove a propane space heater that is mounted in the wall abutting the garage and cap the line.  We also need to remove a window mount air-conditioner in that same wall.  Yes, that’s right, the current A-C for that room exhausts into the garage.

The third piece of the puzzle will be disconnecting the propane and converting the appliances that currently run on propane; the kitchen range, the main furnace, and the generator.  We will have Darryll take care of disconnecting the propane from the house and connecting the natural gas to the existing house piping and start up the two new furnaces once the gas is available.  We will then have TOMTEK convert the main furnace since they already service it for us.  Depending on timing we may be without our main furnace and domestic hot water until TOMTEK can complete their work.  I may convert the range, have Darryll do it, or have TOMTEK do it.  Regardless of who does the conversion I will need to get the conversion kit.  Bratcher Electric will connect the gas line and convert the whole house generator and do the annual service at the same time.

While Bratcher Electric is here we are going to have them run a 100 Amp, 4-wire cable from the outlet of the transfer switch in the southwest corner of the garage to the panel in the northeast corner of the garage.  The existing setup has the 200 A main panel in the basement of the house with a 60 A / 240 V breaker supplying the cable that feeds the sub-panel in the garage.  That means the power to the sub-panel goes from the garage all the way to the house and then all the back to the garage.  That’s a lot of unnecessary forth and back.  In part because of that, and in part because of the electrical needs of the new garage furnace and library HVAC unit, I am going to replace the sub-panel in the garage with a 100 Amp main breaker panel in advance of all of this work.

The current sub-panel is a General Electric but the main house panel is a Square D Homeline.  Lowe’s and Home Depot carry both the Homeline and QO product lines from Square D, and Home Depot also carries GE and Siemens.  If I installed a GE main panel in the garage I could potentially reuse the existing breakers and save a little money.  On the other hand, they have been in an unconditioned space for who knows how long, and they are not physically compatible with the Homeline breakers.  Indeed, the four different products are not generally interchangeable.  But the main consideration is selection and availability, and the Square D products win on those criteria.

Once the new furnaces are installed we will still have some work to do.  We will have to repair the walls in the library, insulate the hot air duct in the garage (although Darryll may take care of that), and enclose the library HVAC unit.  Because the library HVAC unit will be installed in the northeast corner of the garage it has to be in its own little sealed room to prevent automotive engine exhaust or other noxious fumes in the garage from being drawn in to the conditioned air or explosive fumes, such as gasoline vapor, from being drawn into the combustion chamber.  The furnace will have its own air intake and exhaust tubes.  The garage heater uses a sealed combustion chamber with a special concentric intake and exhaust tube, so it does not have to be enclosed.

Darryll indicated he could start the last week of July and would need about a week to do all of his initial work.  We have company coming the 20th through the 23rd, so we have the upcoming week to prep (clean out) the garage and library for Darryll.  This is the kind of situation that could give us gas if we weren’t used to it and enjoy it.  There’s nothing like a construction project to get you up and moving first thing in the morning and keep you up late at night.


20140711 (F) Nice Weather Lately

Steven’s nephew, Spencer, was here a little after 8 AM and spent some time cleaning up the driveway.  He was joined by Tommy, who was only available for the morning.  Tommy got instructions from Steve by phone and they tried working on the retaining walls, but I’m not sure what they accomplished.  One of the large boulders Steve positioned yesterday on the lower west wall had dropped 6 inches and they were unable to re-position it.

It was another pleasant day, so I decided to work outside during the morning.  I cut up some previously trimmed tree limbs and then started pruning our apple tree.  I tried to cut all of the dead limbs and branches I could reach from the ground using our new Fiskar’s ratcheting lopper.  With that material removed I was able to use the pole saw and compound lopper to remove some larger and/or higher limbs.  By noon it was getting warm and I knocked off for the day and had lunch.  Linda made the chickpea (garbanzo bean) salad that we both like so much and served it on a bed of greens with red grapes and sweet Bing cherries on the side.

Tommy had to take off for the afternoon and left Spencer to start moving smaller rocks onto the slope of the east retaining wall.  We would occasionally hear one thud against the foundation and I decided I should check on his progress.  He was doing a fine job of tossing rocks into place, but I did not like the way the earth was pitched as it appeared to slope back towards the house.  I examined the west wall and it appeared to have the same problem.

Since the whole reason for this project was to get water to flow away from the house, I asked Spencer to take a break while I called Steve.  I told him that something just did not look right to me and that I could not see any evidence of a drain tile behind the upper wall on the west side.  He was running the excavator at another job site and wasn’t able to come look at our job so he sent Kyle over to pick up Spencer, who did not have a car.  With a chance of rain in the forecast for Saturday through Monday it is looking more and more like this job will not be done until the end of July.

In the afternoon I continued working on configuring my Windows 8.1 laptop.  My challenge today was getting Outlook 2013 to preview PDF files.  I used the search feature on the Start screen to locate information, some of which indicated I would have to create and/or edit the registry.  In the end the solution only required two steps:  installing Adobe Reader 11 and then setting it as the default program for PDFs.

With that problem solved I edited my blog posts for July 1 through 9 and started uploading them.  I managed to get the posts for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd uploaded before dinner.  I also got a return call from Darryll at DCM Heating and Cooling and we agreed he would come to the house tomorrow at 10:30 AM to finalize the work we need done and pin down a start date to prep the house for natural gas and install a small HVAC unit for the library and a furnace for the garage.  We also need the main air-conditioner serviced.  Luckily it has been a cool summer so far.  The conversion of appliances will have to wait until the natural gas line is connected to the meter and turned on, which could be as late as early October.

I got a call from Gary at GM Construction sometime in the last few days.  He finally had all of his supplier quotes for our pole barn / bus garage project and had a price for us.  It was higher than I would have liked, but less than the quote from Morton Buildings, which was for a much smaller barn.  Last night I called Phil from Precision Grading to update him on the status of the project and to see if he would swing by and look at the pull-through driveway which the landscapers have torn up more than I expected.  My best guess is that we will get a barn up somehow, but I’m not sure when or how.

For dinner Linda made pan-grilled sliced tofu with onions and Bar-B-Que sauce served on a toasted sandwich bun with a side of lightly oiled and baked potato wedges and a few fresh strawberries.  Of course, that meant ketchup with Tabasco sauce.  We split a can of cold Yuengling beer which was the perfect beverage for this meal.  Sometime in the last two days Linda made a raspberry sauce from frozen raspberries we picked last year.  Earlier today she made a vegan chocolate cake and this evening the cake and raspberry sauce came together for dessert.