Barn Is Coming Along

Wow, I haven’t posted much recently have I?  Looks like it’s been about four months!

My barn project is continuing to come along nicely if slowly.  I had been hoping to pass final inspection in late February, but it looks as though I’m not going to be quite ready.

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The siding is done on three sides, and I have exterior lights installed on the East wall.  Wanderingsofbaloo came out during what turned out to be the rainiest week of the season and helped me spread ten yards of gravel all around the building, and it looks much more like it belongs now.


It’s shaping up to be a pretty Spring season up at the building site.  I’m looking forward to some warm and productive weekends in the coming months!

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New Tree Planted

I took the morning off today to plant my replacement tree.  It looks pretty good!


I added some sage bushes on either side that I thought looked nice in the nursery.  I have a few deer grass plants in back which I might add to fill in the gaps a little bit.

I’m a little concerned about how well it will grow with all the wood chips left in the dirt from the stump grinding.  I had a garden once that included a former tree stump, and the corn never grew well at the location where the stump had been.  Corn is an annual though so it may have a harder time of it.  Tree roots should just push the good chips out of the way once they take hold.

I’ll want to spread some uniformly colored mulch once I’m through planting so that everything looks more even.  For now though it’s coming along, and it should satisfy the city’s tree inspection.

You might notice that I also added a sign to the city’s signpost which wasn’t there three weeks ago.  I figured that since the parking in front of my house is constantly occupied by the neighbors on evenings and weekends, I would make an effort to disavow any future liability resulting from their choice of location.  Park anywhere you like, it’s a free country, but don’t come crying to me because of falling tree branches.  Nobody made you leave your car there.

Goodbye Tree

I was aroused this morning at about 4 am by the loud sound of splitting wood.  I knew right away what it was because nothing else sounds like that:  A tree had lost a limb.  After finding a shirt and some pants and plodding out the front door, I saw that one of the trees in front of my house had dropped a sizable branch onto the neighbor’s car.  Also three telecom lines and a PG&E electric service drop.


I called 911 and PG&E.  There was no fire but it seemed like a situation that was at least somewhat of an emergency on account of the power line.  What subsequently ensued was practically comedy.  SJFD arrived first but they didn’t have anything to really do on account of there not being a fire.  They boys made a good show of putting out orange cones and taking charge of the situation, which I certainly appreciate since I’m not exactly a take charge sort of person at four in the morning.  Also it’s good that they were there since who knows, if the power line had come loose then things could have gotten much more exciting in short order.  Which thankfully didn’t happen.  All that being said, you have to kind of laugh at the situation when the fire department drives up and it takes them five minutes to work out how to turn on the flashing lights on their truck.  They got it worked out in the end though.  Thanks guys!

The next to arrive on the scene was someone with the city.  If the fire department didn’t really have anything to do, then the city guy had even less.  I think the singular extent of his contribution was to tell me when the city tree contractor would arrive to take care of the downed limb.  The answer was thirty minutes.  My recollection is quite clear on this because I had the chance to ask him several times over a period of about an hour and a half, and the answer was unwaveringly that the tree guys would arrive in thirty minutes.

PG&E arrived shortly after the city.  Theiy didn’t do anything though, because the guy who happened to be on call was with the natural gas side of the business and didn’t have the equipment to work on power lines.  I guess they sent him just so that they could say, “yep, we’re here responding to emergencies quickly!”  It’s not his fault, I’m sure he just goes where the dispatcher tells him to go.

Just as the eastern sky was getting light the PG&E lineman finally got on site equipped with a predawn color-coordinated bucket truck.  For those of you who aren’t out west, the monopoly power company here paints their trucks cornflower blue.  He was efficient as all get out.  He disconnected the service drop, pulled the cable over the top of the downed limb and had it reconnected by sunrise.  Then he and his buddy took off.  While he was working the fire department had also departed, so the street was left to me, a few interested neighbors one of whom had a tree on top of his car, and the city guy reassuring us that the tree contractor would arrive in thirty minutes.


They did eventually arrive, although if I’d known it would take so long I would have gone and picked up coffee and donuts for everybody.

I’m not as irritated as it sounds about the tree crew, they probably got there as fast as they could and they did good work.  I just think it’s silly that the city guy had to keep saying thirty minutes.  I did get a chance to chat politics with the professionals while the time was passing.  San José used to have our own tree crews, who were actually on call and available for emergency work.  They even paid for the basic service out of tax revenue.  That all changed when former mayor Chuck Reed went on his privatization spree and tried to bust up all the unions.  He didn’t quite manage with the fire and police departments, but he did achieve annihilation of the city’s tree care capability.  Now homeowners are forced to use the city’s approved private vendor for emergency tree services, who charges suitably high monopoly vendor prices, and we can’t price shop in what would be a free market.  I know because I tried. The city doesn’t officially require that you use their vendor, but in practice because of the size of the contract with the city they are the only vendor around who is big enough to get a crew on site with two hours’ notice.  And they charge whatever they want.

This might all be a condemnation of privatization as delivering the worst of both worlds, and it is exactly that, but there could potentially be a silver lining if for example the big contractor were to cut costs so much that the crew they send out were to have no particular connection to the company itself.  And if that were to happen then maybe, hypothetically speaking, the crew might see how ridiculous the situation is and offer to do a good deal of the work off the books at half the company’s rate on a cash basis.  I mean, you know, that could theoretically happen.

Anyway at the end of the day I’m down to one healthy tree in front of my house.  I’m disappointed.  Not in the crew or the fire department or PG&E or the guy the city sent out.  I’m disappointed that I have only one tree.  I really did love my big, pretty trees and they made me feel happy to come home to my little house even if it isn’t in a very good neighborhood.  Today after everything was finished I went out for food and when I came back there was one solitary tree standing a lonesome vigil for me on the parking strip.  It seemed so sad.  It also made clear that my front yard looks more or less like crap.  When I put in the bark and native plants to be drought friendly and low maintenance it seemed like a good idea, but they’re slow growing.  It wasn’t so bad with a pair of trees to look at but now the empty space from the curb to the house seems awfully barren.  I need something there which will become waist high in about a season or perhaps come that way from the nursery.  Or maybe a little fence if that’s not too kitschy.  Anything to interrupt the flatness.


Cold Brew Contraption

I had a great weekend off last week, but more about that later.  For now let me tell about my new cold brew coffee thingamajig!  Cold brewed coffee is something of a trend at the moment, so I probably don’t need to explain it.  If I do need to explain it then please hop on down to your local Starbucks and ask them for some; then you can be one of the cool kids too.

There are lots of ways to make cold brew, it’s really pretty low tech.  Being one to never pass up an entertaining gadget however, I purchased Oxo’s interpretation of a cold brew coffee maker last week and I finally had a chance to try it out today.


When it arrived, it turned out to be a lot larger than I was expecting.  That’s not a big deal necessarily but it’s definitely not a thing which you can throw into a drawer.  It’s essentially a plastic half gallon bucket with a filter and valve on the bottom, and a glass carafe for your brewed coffee.  It also comes compete with a fifty dollar trademarked Oxo logo.

The instructions call for 40 ounces of water to 10 ounces of ground coffee, which is expected to give about 26 ounces of cold brew.  If you’re counting, that’s 65% yield for the input water.  I used 32 ounces of water to 8 ounces of coffee because half a pound is easy to ask for at the coffee shop, and I got 16 ounces out of it.  So my yield was 50%.  The container holds 84 ounces to the rim, so I think I should be able to do a full pound of coffee despite the instructions recommending somewhat less.


I brewed for 17 hours and then flipped the lever on the front of the unit.  The drain rate was extremely slow, taking about 6 hours to finish filtering.  I had to stir several times because it seemed to get stuck.  I asked Peet’s for french press grind, but what they gave me was finer than I’d like.  I’ll have to see if they can grind it coarser next time.  I also used an optional paper filter which the instructions state isn’t necessary.  Using only the stainless mesh screen which comes with the brewer might allow for the coffee to drain a bit faster.

The result is very strong, as expected, and seems to have a great flavor.  I’ll be waiting until tomorrow morning to make a mug of it so I’ll have to update later with my tasting impression.


UPDATE:  It’s enjoyable, but a bit woody or tannic.  I think the extraction was a little too long owing to the combination of the 17 hour brew time and 6 hours to drain.  The grind could also have perhaps contributed.

Three Chicken Farm

I lost one of my hens here at Four Chicken Farm.  The Ameraucana was fine on Saturday morning, but by Sunday evening she had gone to the great free range in the sky.  She didn’t show any signs of distress, it looked as though she just dropped right off of the roost one night.  Poor girl.  She was fifteen months old, which is probably something like thirteen in people years.  Chickens reach sexual maturity much faster in proportion to the dominant primates.


The Ameraucana (left) with her very first egg

The last egg she laid

The last egg she laid

Not to worry about us here at Four Three Chicken Farm!  We’ll persevere.  I noticed last weekend that Echo Valley Ranch is still carrying chicks even at this late season; they had some Orpingtons and a couple other breeds as well.  It’s not a very good idea to raise up one chick all alone as they are flock animals.  Maybe we should move up to Five Chicken Farm?

Drywall On Two Walls

The 3-day weekend wasn’t as productive as perhaps it might have been, I ran into problems getting my soffit boards.  I’ll have to talk to the pro desk at Hills Flat and see whether they can order them for me.  My door flashing is backordered with Tractor Supply so I don’t have that yet either.

Lacking the siding materials which I need, I turned my attention indoors and installed insulation and drywall on the two downstairs walls which are ready for it.  It’s looking pretty good!  Sheetrock isn’t really my area of expertise, which is apparent when you look at the cutouts close up, but it’s nothing that some joint compound won’t take care of.  🙂


Passed Electrical Inspection

I passed my electrical inspection on Monday!

Over the weekend I cleaned up the site and made a couple of runs out to the McCourtney Road transfer station.  Grass Valley has to have the most beautiful dump that I’ve ever been to; you could practically take your date there. I snapped this picture out the back window as I was leaving.


On Monday the inspector came out and he signed me off on both rough electrical and rough framing.  That’s the last inspection I’ll need before the final, so it’s starting to feel like things are really coming together!  After he left I installed my permanent outdoor work lights, which seem to do a pretty good job lighting up the area that I most often find myself woking in after dark.


If you noticed that the floodlights seem to be different colors you are correct; one is 5000° Kelvin and the other is 3000° Kelvin.  I ordered them that way because of my theatre background.  The neighbors will probably think I’m weird.

No, I do not intend to produce Shakespeare at the barn.  🙂

Ready For The Next Inspection

The barn is finally ready for my electrical rough-in inspection!  I’ve been saying for a while now that it’s almost ready and nearly ready; now it’s finally really ready!


I got all of the exterior fixture boxes installed last weekend; there are seven of them.  After that I spent about an hour looking for things the inspector might ding me for.  I found a couple of missed cable staples and nail shields, which I fixed, and I think it should be ready to go!

I’m going to schedule the inspection for next Monday.  I’ll make a dump run on Saturday to get the job site looking clean and organized.  Neatness doesn’t officially count, but I think the inspectors tend to give you a little more benefit of the doubt if the place looks organized and professional.

How’s The Barn Doing?

Wow, it’s been a while since I posted an update!

I have been working on the barn for the past month, with the exception of one weekend that I took off of that project.  I’ve got the electrical rough-in competed with the exception of the junction boxes for the outside lights.  The cable isn’t really much to look at, but the breaker panel is interesting.  It’s not the prettiest panel you’ve ever seen but it’s perfectly decent.  For next time though, I will seriously look into plug-on-neutral breakers.


After the electrical work I spent a couple of days installing more siding.  It’s coming along nicely.