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Feeling worn out after spending somewhere near five hours this evening between:

  • breaking down and burning sticks and other wood from previous tree / branch / bracken removal and dead-fall
  • scooping dog poop

The start of a busy weekend.

Home Lighting: Sun-light, Moon-light

Every room has sun-light and moon-light. Hallways, stairwells, walkways, etc. probably just have moon-light. The sun-light would be the bright bulb(s) in the middle of the ceiling or by work areas to allow tasks to be performed. The moon-light is the much dimmer, low wattage option like a night-light, for moving about and other less visually precise activities.

Continue reading post "Home Lighting: Sun-light, Moon-light"

Dwight moved out

After a year and a half of living with me, my roommate Dwight finally moved out. His girlfriend got a “real” job in Texas, so he moved down there with her. His stay here was supposed to be temporary, but he liked the low living expenses so much he decided to stay.

This has been quite a change for me. The change in my cost of living is quite significant: My basic expenses will increase by an estimated 34%, not a small number. This is at a time when I’m about to lose my job. I have money saved, and could easily get a job at a restaurant in no time I’m sure, but it still could be rough, especially on some of my planned extra type expenditures.

Living alone is quite different from living with someone. There was someone there most of the time to do stuff with before, but now I have to put effort into finding someone to do stuff with, especially since I no longer have any real friends (he was the only one that I actually did stuff with excluding family). He had a good collection of movies and frequently rented some, so we often watched them. We also played card and other games. It was nice to have an additional person to help with some stuff: It meant I didn’t have to always be there to look for and deal with everything. It can be very lonely sitting at home alone.

Of course, it can be nice as well. I can have lots of alone time without worrying about someone popping in. Dwight could be quite the talker and sometimes would talk for hours, sometimes about things I wasn’t especially interested in. The dishes were a shared duty and they ended up being quite a mess as well as a lot of work. My house is much cleaner now and I plan to keep it that way.

On the cleaner note, I have moved some of the stuff from my front room into his old bedroom. The front room had been piled with stuff and virtually unusable, but now it is rather clean. It will be an entertainment room (video, board, and card games, chairs to chat, etc). His old room is rather clean still as well, and may become an office. I hope to get rid of a lot of stuff and make the house cleaner still.

We’ll see how this works out.

Another mouse

There was another mouse in my house, removed yesterday.

Over the summer I had occasionally heard some mouse-like noises, especially more recently. But I didn’t see any signs, such as mouse poop and chewed up food. On Monday I saw very sure signs, starting with the same scurrying past my bedroom door tiny brown furry thing that had alerted me to the presence of a mouse in the past. I didn’t want to alert Dwight, as I wasn’t sure how he’d take it or what he’d want to do about it. But as I was trying to sleep that night, the mouse kept chewing on something. I couldn’t sleep, so I repeatedly went into the kitchen searching for him. I pulled off some wall/cupboard material in my search. He finally stopped chewing after awhile, at least long enough for me to fall asleep, but I did set up one of my live traps from before.

He wasn’t there in the morning when I awoke. There were no signs of him. When I came home from work though, i heard a scratching/gnawing similar to the sound from the previous night. He was not chewing on my house though, but on the trap. I had him captured. When Dwight came home I showed him. He was not especially, though slightly, scared of the dirty little thing.

I drove him to the park. I tried to take some photos with my new macro lens, but was unable to get anything good. He disappeared quickly.


I recently purchased a clothes washing “machine” for my home. It is the Wonderwash, a hand powered small washing machine. I was a little leery of the product, as it didn’t seem to have much more to it than would a plastic bucket with tight lid. However, it’s very small and costs only $50, and is supposed to use less water and much less energy than a conventional washer, so I sprung for it.

It is indeed similar to a bucket. It does come with a stand and crank, which seem to make it take up more room than a 5 gallon pickle bucket would while having a bit less capacity. But the cranking is fairly easy. I could simply roll a pickle bucket, but I’m not sure if that’d be as effective as rotating it on the other axis, with the sudden thwumping fall from one side to the other. The lid is screwed down, which is supposed to pressurize the contents (it definitely does). The pressure is supposed to do much of the cleaning, pushing the water and detergent through the clothing. This is the area I’m most worried about the pickle buckets capability. I will have to try the pickle bucket though to see how the results compare. It would be much cheaper, easier to obtain, more versatile, and smaller. The only other thing I’d be missing would be the spigot on the bottom of the wonderwash, which is nice save for the leaking it sometimes does.

So anyway, the Wonderwash thus far has done fairly well at cleaning my clothes, even in the two minute wash cycle recommended. Crank for two minutes. Drain and fill with rinse water. The rinsing takes 30 seconds, but I usually do two rinses. The whole process is fairly fast, most of the time going to filling and draining. Compared to hand washing, it seems to get the clothes somewhat cleaner, though probably not as well as normal washers. It is of course much easier, with no hands in the water, and is much faster. The rinse is also much easier and faster and seems to get better results with less water (the wash also uses less water than what I was using).

The biggest problem right now is with drying. I can easily handle hang drying from a regular washer, as the clothes are spun in them. There is no spinning in this or any ability to squeeze out the water as a group. This problem was the same as with hand washing, and is one reason I rarely did it. Since this is so much easier than hand washing, I’m more liable to do it. But I have almost no space for drip drying. Those clothes can really hold a lot of water. I can spend quite a bit of time squeezing them by hand and they still drip. I think the presses would probably be too bulky and take too much time. I’m considering a spinner. The wonderwash people also make two electric spin dryers. Uses energy, but it’d be fast and take me nearly to the dry point. I considered getting a commercial salad spinner instead, but they cost as much as the electric ones and would be more bulky and not get the clothes as dry. So I may just order an electric spinner soon.

Unfortunately, the spinner hurts the size advantages of the whole operation. I now need the washer, the spinner, and still need some hang drying space and apparatus. Luckily, the energy needs and water usage should be much lower. I’m hoping that once I get everything set up and get a good system going, the time required will not be much more than with the regular machines, especially since I have to drive to my parents to use them.

redo of plumbing fix

As I said in my last post, I recently had to cut out a section of pipe to fix a split, but the soldering job didn’t hold. I had been a little worried about the one joint, as I had heat it up a lot to get it to sweat, and the solder hadn’t gone in nicely enough for my liking. It was just a drip, so I had left it go, turning on the hot water section only when needed.

Sunday before last, when it was warm in the 50’s, I went back down to fix the leak again. I unsweated the whole two connection bits to make sure I could get them cleaned well. It’s unfortunately a pain to unsweat anything, as I can never get all the water out at the union I have. I have to push on the pipes to drain as much as possible, then pour a lot of heat into the first joint to melt it. Once I get the first joint open, I can then push the pipes to drain most of the water out, so subsequent unsweats are fairly easy. But that draining, followed by getting enough solder off to get things back together, is the biggest difficulty I have in plumbing.

I heated all the removed bits at a table and brushed off as much solder as I could. I got the two pipe ends under the house as good as I could. I sweat everything back together. The sweat at the same place as last time didn’t look that great, but I figured I’d give it a try. Unfortunately, this time water was spraying out of the joint. There was no way I could leave that while running anything.

I had to go through the whole rigamaroo of draining the water once again. I only unsweat the one joint this time, as I didn’t feel like doing everything all over again. Either in that unsweating process or in a previous one, I must have bent the pipe right as it went into the joint. It was kinda flattened, but not right at the end. I decided I might as well try it out as is, as I’d otherwise have to cut out that bit and cut another bit to replace the whole replacement bit I had made the other day. I really didn’t feel like doing that. I cleaned the two sides underneath the house there as best I could. I tried to go quickly in sweating to get the best joint possible, though I ended up reheating once to pour some more solder in. I just stuffed the flat side with solder, as much as I could get in there. Solder was dripping onto the ground.

I was, of course, rather worried about this joint holding up. To my amazement, when I turned on the water, it held just fine. There appeared to be a little, very slow seepage, but that must’ve just been leftover water from before: I haven’t seen anything dripping since. I’ve checked underneath the house a number of times since then, especially when it had gotten in the teens temperature wise again (I put the space heater down there in advance to ensure no freeze-ups), but have seen no signs of drippage. Soon I’ll remove the insulation again to see if perhaps it is dripping so slow that it is just getting absorbed by the insulation, but I think I am in the clear.

Now, this is good incentive for me to get that floor better insulated this summer. I’m considering putting two heat tape lines on the inside-the-floor piping, just to make sure it doesn’t freeze. I’m hoping that heat on just a little bit will carry through the whole pipe system to make sure it doesn’t freeze up. I’m also hoping that the tape doesn’t get too hot in the pipe insulation under the floor and melt the insulation or even cause a fire.

Plumbing break

I had my first split pipe a little over a week ago. The pipes froze for maybe the fifth time this year, on what might have been the coldest day of the year. I had put a lightbulb under the house, but it was no match for that cold and wind. I had shut off the water and opened the valves during the cold. After it warmed up, I put my space heater below the house to unthaw the lines (I had done this once before with fast results). It unthawed them, but I found one hot water line spraying out water.

I shut off the hot water side. Something made me think I had a leak in a cold water line as well. I think my toilet, which has a long delay for its valve to open after flushing, must have opened and when I heard the loud water rushing, I thought I had another leak. So I shut off all my water at my filter, which is inside the house.

For over a week I got my water from the filter: I had removed the filter part and was getting water from the hole that went through it. I boiled water for baths, filled jugs to use for teeth brushing, dish washing, and cooking. The water looked kinda junky, so I got my drinking water from my parents house.

Then one night I came home to find water dripping from the filter. When I went to shut it off, it fell apart and water was pouring out. I shut off my water at the main valve and had absolutely no water for a while. Luckily, the filter was not especially damaged, and I was able to just put it all back together. Evidently, the filter part holds a plastic plate against the valve part, preventing it from being pushed out. So I need to keep the filter on there.

Then I went underneath to fix the break. It was maybe a 1 inch break in the hot water line going to my kitchen. After some time of looking and crawling under my house, I determined that there was in fact no break in the cold water lines. I could have had cold running water that whole time. Without too much trouble, other than getting rather cold, I was able to cut out the old broken bit and put in a new bit with a junction. It held water just fine and finally I had all my water running again. I took a shower that night in celebration.

A few days later (yesterday) it got rather cold again. I put my space heater underneath the house just to make sure nothing froze up again. Unfortunately, a leak has developed, probably just at one of the soldered joints. I was worried about the one that had been there before, with how much heat I used to do some of the new joints. I’ll have to take care of that when the weather gets better. For now, I’m just shutting the valve till I need hot water.

New roommate

Toby Manor will soon have a new employee. Dwight Henson, my roommate and bandmate for several years in the past, will be living here temporarily for a few months or so. He wants to stay to look for a job in his desired field (TV or film). He’s had no luck in the two years or whatever it’s been since he graduated, so who knows how long that’ll take.

The preparation for the move has been very rough for me. I’ve had to move all of the junk from my back bedroom to my living room to allow it to become his bedroom. I have a lot of junk, and it really fills up the living room. There is a narrow walkway between stacked boxes and piles of stuff. This of course took a while to do. I’m intending on having a large and long series of garage sales once the weather turns nice to get rid of a lot of this, and hopefully pare my stuff down to a much more minimal amount.

I’ve also had to clean up the bathroom, kitchen, and hallway, known as the communal areas. These have taken a good bit of time and are still not especially ready for their planned roles.

And of course, as is a tradition here at Toby Manor, I’ve had plumbing problems. I went more than a week without water because a pipe burst after freezing for maybe the 5th time this year. That plumbing is a pain and takes some time, since it is outside and underneath my house.

I’ve got lots of schoolwork to do as well. It seems quite overwhelming. I’m feeling enticed toward dropping a class or something.

Anyway, I’m worried that the new employee will want me to do all sorts of work to get the house up to his germophobic and more normal person standards. I won’t be able to do much at least till school is out. We will no doubt get into arguments about how to run things. Living with two people should theoretically be less work than one, but I fear the opposite will be the case.

There are bright notes of the move, though. This will provide me with some much needed social interaction, even if just with Dwight and his girlfriend. It could be cool playing cards and the like. The costs of living here will hopefully go down a good bit. I’m expecting utility usage to go up noticeably, but it shouldn’t overtake the savings of splitting the costs in half. And this whole thing will hopefully motivate me more to do things to get out of this rut I have dug myself into. It’s getting harder and harder to stay in this rut.

copper plumbing

When I replaced my water heater, I also replaced the piping coming into the house. It had been galvanized steel, which was very rusty at some parts, and I replaced it with copper. Still, the rest of the house had galvinized. This made for constant cloggings of shower heads, faucets, valves, etc. with small bits of rust/mineralization. The water flow to my shower was so low I had trouble maintaining the .75 gallons per minute my water heater needs to stay running. The heat would often turn off when I tried to turn up the cold water to reduce the tempurature, causing it get very cold. When a valve broke and could not be removed with all my might, I had to run a line from the sink piping to the shower to still get my hot water. The water also always seemed dirty, and tasted undesirable, so I never trusted drinking it. I did cook with it though.

I decided a while back I wanted to replace all the pipe at some point. Since I intended to redo the belly of my house before winter (fast approaching) I decided to take care of it at the same time. A few weeks ago (I believe) I started, with the help of my dad. It was very slow going then, since I could only get him out once a week. I’m the only one who could go under the house, so I had to do most of the work for the bathroom fixtures. The other stuff simply was along the side. My dad actually ended up doing most of the work for this. The underneath part was very rough though. It is not tall enough to sit up under there, though luckily much more roomy than under a car. It’s very dirty and there is stuff impeding movement all over the place. Just to get in, I must manuever myself over an electrical conduit and under a sanitary pipe and then a steel beam. The belly board has been ripped out by previous owners and by me during this project, leaving fiberglass insulation all over. Movement in certain areas will knock fiberglass into the air, making for a very itchy and coughy experience. I had to shower after every time working on it. I got a plastic rain suit to keep fiberglass off me, but it got on my neck and wrists with no problem, and the pants eventually were torn to shreds from moving around down there. The project was very slow going, and almost every time I got much less done than expected.

We first rerouted the pipe coming into the house to make most of it within the belly (at least it will be once we replace the belly). We got that working quickly and easily. Then we planned to do the hot lines only, to leave cold water available as long as possible. Some of the line, notably to the kitchen, we would go an entirely different route than the old line. The bathroom lines took a more simplified route, but it still ran into the old line a lot. I had to cut out the old line, as I had no luck getting it out by wrench and had no reason to try very hard with that anyway. I used an angle grinder. Sparks flew like crazy down in that small inclosed space, and I couldn’t help but getting hit by some of them. They also caused a few small short-lived flames in the insulation and bellyboard. With most of the cuts, water would come out when I broke throught the wall, sometimes lots of it. I’d let it drain and then continue. It was a very wet job. I could’t cut all the way through the pipe, as the wheel wasn’t wide enough, but I came pretty close. There was perhaps half the top wall left, and I was able to flex it until it broke. Unfortunately, the old pipes running to the bathroom sink and toilet were too tightly packed amongst themselves, a sanitary line, and a wooden beam to be able to be cut out, so I had to move the lines slightly over. Because of the location of beams and sanitary lines, this led me to need to drill holes through some beams as well as the new holes through the floor. The holes through the beams were difficult, and one required us to get a smaller drill to fit in between nearby obstacles, as well as cut out more old pipe. The hot water was at a lower elevation than the cold so they could cross over going over to the kitchen, so I had to cut a partial hole in the bottom of a beam rather than through it. The first one was done with a chisel, which took forever and a lot of energy. That tired me out, and it was a very tight fit even after that. Later we got a rasp bit for the drill to do the job much much faster and easily. The rasp also helped widen holes to allow for the proper positioning of pipes. This was especially important for one hole that was drilled at an angle because the drill would not fit any other way.

At one point, I wanted to cut part of the hot line to get it out of the way to run a line to the shower. It was right next to the cold line. I realized very quickly, when lots of water started spraying on me, that I had cut the wrong line. Luckily my dad was outside and turned off the water. I was now without any running water and changed plans of which line I would complete first. I intended to complete the line just to the bathroom sink and toilet (they came up through the floor with the same line anyway) so that my house could at least be liveable, but that didn’t happen for a while. I slept at my parents house then, in addition to showering there, which gave me more incentive to complete the cold water line. I had a bucket of water that allowed me to flush the toilet only thrice. I had diarea the one day, making this hard to do.

Soldering is very difficult in tight quarters. There was the plastic vapar barriers above and below the insulation, the subfloor, the wood beams, and the insulation that for whatever reason would burn somewhat even though it was fiberglass. We started off using heat sheilds, but I eventually gave up on them. It was too hard to keep them in place, especially when working by myself, and the heat would often just transfer through anyway. I found that if I carefully shot the flame at a certain angle so that it mostly curved around the pipe, I could minimize or eliminate the burning. In tight spots, though, it was impossible to eliminate the burning, and my house would get somewhat smokey after each of these. Fires of the wood would mostly got out once the flame was removed. They’d still smoke a bit and sometimes would glow, so I sprayed them thoroughly with a spray bottle. The plastic vapor barriers, however, wouldn’t always stop burning. I tried to cut them out of the way, but sometimes they still caught. If they were hot enough, the fire would somewhat quickly spread as it burned a hole in the barrier, dropping droplets of flaming plastic along the way.

Every time I worked I ran into some noticeable problem. I often ran into routing problems. The most noteable (or at least most memorable currently) of these was running the hot water line to the bathroom. I ran the long length to the sink (it seems much longer down there than inside the house) down through the same channel the old pipes were ran in, so it was very easy. Getting over to this run and allowing the shower to be hooked up as well, however, was not easy. The height the line was at was just above a sanitary line, touching it as it ran to the sink. I had chiseled a half hole throught a beam before to allow it to pass that. The sanitary line coming fromt the shower to the main run, unfortunately, was tilted, so I could not go over it. I ended up making two other partial holes through the beam to find a place I could come through with enough room between everything, and I even had some of the pieces for each of the routes.

Later on, I ran into problems with bad solder joints. I’d have to drain the lines and then unsolder, clean really well, then try to get the stuff back together and solder again. This became a crazy, long two night problem for the hot water line. This last Sunday, I had gotten the cold line to the kitchen working during the day with the help of my dad, and had also gotten the hot line cut and nearly ready to solder. I was thus done with the cold line and nearly done with the hot. I figured I could get it done that night in a few hours. I had to cut a few more pieces and then I prepared the whole thing and got it all in place to solder all at once. Most of the joints soldered very well, but I was a little worried about the one under the sink. It was the most surrounded by flamable material, as the one part of the elbow was actually resting on a wooden beam when the pipe was pulled down by gravity. I tried to solder it holding the pipe up with one hand and the torch in the other, then quickly taking the solder and trying to get it up there to sweat. It was very hard to manuever around to see both sides, and ended up being a sloppy job. I was a little worried about it but figured it was worth a try. I turned on the hot water, hoping it would work. Unfortunately, the union just below the heater was leaking like a sieve. I spent perhaps 40 minutes messing around with it, taping it with lots of teflon tape (and wasting a lot of tape in the process) to come to the conclusion that something must be wrong with it. Also, to my chagrin, the elbow beneath the sink started leaking. By that time it was rather late and I had to work the next morning, so I just went to my parents house to take a shower and sleep. Tuesday, I came back to the project, again at night. I was determined to finish. I bought a new union (8 bloody dollars) and installed that to replace the seemingly malfunctioning one. I drained the water from the lower union I had put in for that purpose, but unfortunately the pipes were at such angles as to not allow all the water to drain out. I put lots of heat into the elbow only to find it not getting hot enough to unsolder. I was getting rather angry and hitting the pipes rather hard to try to get the sweats apart. This of course dented the pipes fairly well, but luckily didn’t knock the important parts out of round or rupture the lines. I went into the bathroom, put my lips on the top of the valve there, and blew out the water. I spent quite a while doing this to make sure the water got out, and sure enough, I was able to unsweat the elbow. I made the mistake of only unsweating the one side of the elbow that had been leaking. I cleaned it up as best as I could in place and resweat it. It seemed much better. The pipe in the other sweat had been twisted during my removal attempts, and so had obviously been somewhat unsweat, but there was still solder in it. I figured that it should be fine and applied a bit more solder to be sure (perhaps that was a mistake). I ran the water. My union was mostly fine, though the connection to the water heater was leaking a bit. Unfortunately, the other sweat of that elbow was leaking a lot. I drained the water, blew through the pipes again, and tried to unsweat the elbow again. This time I hadn’t blew out enough water, so I had to go back, twice I believe. I finally got enough out to be able to unsweat, and more water that was rather hot came out of the pipe. This time I took the whole elbow off and cleaned it very well. The sweat looked good, and in testing held up. Through this whole procedure, I had burned the subfloor and other stuff pretty good, making my house visibly smoky. I went back in and retightened the connection to the water heater, then turned the water on. The union and connection at the heater seemed fine, but there was a noticable stream of water flowing through the hole in the floor beneath them. It was actually shooting up from beneath: the elbow there couldn’t take the pressure. I once again drained the water. Luckily, it was much easier with this one, as a union was pretty close by. Still, the floor was soaked with water from the leaks before, and it was dripping down. There was also a drip coming inside the pipe from the water heater. This made the unsweating and sweating process take noticably longer, though it still worked just fine. By this time I had determined that it was a bad idea to try to un and then re sweat only the broken side, so I took the elbow off, cleaned everything real good, and put it back together. It sweat nicely as well. When I turned the water on again, there was no real leak, though perhaps a slight drip from the union. Finally, after countless hours, I had my plumbing all done. It was of course, at this point, 0230 and I had to work that morning. I took a long hot shower and was in bed by 0430. I was rather tired the next day.

hot water, finally

I’m very happy to say that my house, like so many rich and famous people’s, now has hot water flowing right through the pipes. It comes right out of the faucets and even the shower head. I feel so priviledged. At last I can take showers in my own home. I intend to take my first here in over a year tonight.

I had, when I first got my new fancy smancy tankless water heater in, hooked it up to 240VAC instead of the 120 it requires. This, I determined, burned out the main transformer. I had finally ordered that. When I put it in, I finally had power going to the GFCI and then the controller board. However, when I tried to run it, all it did was blink a small light on the circuit board. This was an error code, telling me there was one of three possible problems. One was the circuit board; I feared I might have burned something out on it, though it all looked fine. Another problem, wrong gas type, was not the problem for sure. The third option was a problem with the solenoid valve. Testing this required jumping past a fuse, and I was leery of doing this myself, so the heater sat for months. Finally, today I had my dad come over to help me look at it. We did they bypassing of the fuse test, and determined that was fine. We then had no more help from the troubleshooting guide, and had to start figuring things out ourselves. We tested the continuity and voltage going to the two solenoid valves, a hi-limit switch, and many other parts. After over two hours of this, we were getting ready to stop for the day. My dad, looking at a diagram of it, wondered if removing the plate the GFCI was attached to would give us a better view of the solenoids and other stuff. I took it off and immediately noticed that the wires going to another gas valve, the VGO, were disconnected. We plugged them in, ran the heater, and instantly it was working. It was quite exciting.

The amount of force needed to attach the wires’ clip was enough that it couldn’t have been knocked off while I was messing with the GFCI before. It must have been either put on loosely and not clipped in all the way or not put in at all by the manufacturers. It’s crazy that I’ve had to go all these months without hot water and showers at home because of such an amazingly simple problem.

wahoo, hot water.