Happy Independance Day!

I had a nice 4-day weekend for the 4th of July holiday.  I had some family time and also worked on both the barn and my house.  I spread 6 yards of bark mulch around the chicken coop in my San Jose yard to make it look a bit nicer without a water-guzzling lawn.  I think it meets that objective pretty well.  The hens like to dig around in the bark so I’ll probably be raking it fairly frequently, but it looks a little more well kept than having them dig around in the dirt and weeds.


I also worked on the barn, adding an exterior electrical panel where I want to eventually put an AC compressor and perhaps an outdoor receptacle, and I also added more siding to the west wall.

The panel took a while to install.  Or to be more specific it took a while to install the interior blocking, the outside mounting block, integrate the flashing with the building wrap and fit the siding around it all.  Actually installing the panel itself only took 20 minutes once the other stuff was done.


The auxiliary panel is bigger than what you would usually use for an AC disconnect, but it only cost me $45 including the accessory ground bar kit and it allows more flexibility for me so I think it’s a good choice.

Barn Siding Progress

The barn siding is slowly but surely coming along.  Here’s what I’ve managed to complete so far.


The west wall up to the deck ledger should go pretty fast, but above that level I have to worry about accommodating the gable end trim and the wall penetrations for the exterior light fixtures, which will slow the work down a bit.


DIY Air Conditioner

No, this isn’t some Rube Goldberg contraption with a fan, a housecat and a bucket of ice; this is the real deal.  I found a Canadian company which makes DIY ductless mini-split AC units in 12,000 BTU/h and 18,000 BTU/h models.  They come pre-charged with refrigerant and there’s a high pressure mating connector so that you can attach the indoor and outdoor units yourself without needing to hire an expensive HVAC technician.  I ordered one of the larger units for my house, and they sent it via rail freight to California and then to my house with a private trucking company.  The boxes arrived okay with no damage.


I installed the indoor unit and poured a concrete slab along the side of the house last week, but I didn’t have time to do anything else until Monday evening when I came home to find a temperature of about 95 degrees in my house with high humidity due to an exceptionally warm weather pattern.  I was extremely motivated then to complete the installation!


Indoor unit


Outdoor unit

It still needs some trim and a more code-compliant electrical connection, but I managed to get it up and running to cool things down when i really needed it.

Brewing in San Jose!

The trip out to Colorado inspired me to restart my brewing activities in San Jose.  I installed one of those conical bottom fermenters in my cellar, and I put a brass outlet box in my kitchen floor but without the electrical outlet.  The purpose of the outlet-free outlet is so that I can remove the cover plate and run a tube from my kitchen down to the fermenter in order to transfer the beer downstairs.  I think it’s pretty clever!


My first batch with the new equipment was a dunkelweisen from a Northern Brewer extract kit.  It’s in the fermenter now getting all beery.

Barn Stairs

I built my deck stairs this weekend!


It was a bit tricky getting the geometry correct, as there’s no floor to which I could directly measure the rise and run.  I had to establish a level and plumb reference point and then measure off of that.  Eventually I got it worked out.

The stair treads are construction heart redwood, which seemed like a good choice for a California project.  The stringers are ACQ pressure treated.

I didn’t finish up until about 9:30 Sunday evening, which is kind of late but I really wanted to complete this part of the project.  The center supports aren’t installed yet but the stringers are plenty strong to support one person even without the additional bracing.

Planted A Hedge

I was up at the barn project again this weekend, but things didn’t exactly go as planned.  I brought a bunch of seedlings up with me to get a hedge started along the property line, and I had thought that I might have help in planting them.  As it turned out it was just me again this weekend, so I planted them all myself.  I think that took 4 or 5 hours.  Planting them in the ground was one thing, and there were a couple of stones to dig out and then there was the watering. That all took perhaps two-and-a-half hours.   Then there was mulch, which was pretty quick to spread around.  What took me a surprising amount of time were the wire cages I put around each plant; you can see part of one in the image below.  I bent them myself from 36-inch rabbit fence that I got from the home center because that was cheaper than anything else.  Then I staked them down and put little flags on them to keep then from being accidentally trampled or perhaps driven over.  It took a while but hopefully it will all grow up into a nice little hedgerow.  I’ve got western redbud, desert olive, manzanita and coffeeberry.


I also finished framing the deck!  The beams were already up, but I installed the joists and the frame is ready to go.  I went shopping for redwood deck boards, but I was not as successful as I might have liked.  The lumber that Home Depot had was pretty badly split on the ends.  Hills Flat had better stock but it’s green, so I have to wait for it to dry out before I can back-stain the planks and then install them.  Depending on how long that takes I might just put some OSB on the deck and proceed with building the stairs and installing the 2nd floor door.


Having finished those tasks, I had about two hours left before I needed to be getting in the road.  Not enough time to start any big tasks, but I was able to cut and install the trim around the downstairs door.  I think it looks good!


The Power Is On

Last week PG&E came out and hooked up the electric utilities for my barn project!  I spent the weekend up there working on things as is more or less typical, but without needing to roll out the generator and 150 feet of associated cable every day.  There’s not much to show really, electricity in and of itself doesn’t photograph well.  The convenience of having it available at the flick of a switch however is not to be underrated.


The service drop is really long.  It’s hard to get a photo of because you don’t really get a sense of how long the span is.  Trust me though. when you look at it it’s clear that 135 feet is a lot of cable to have with no intermediate support.

Did You Miss Me, California?

I’ve been back for a week now, and yet I still haven’t managed to post a single thing about my trip out to Colorado.  I spent a whole week out there this month, and I was so busy having a good time that I never got around to writing about it.

The weather is interesting east of the Front Range.  In the time that it took us to build a single raised planter bed, I got sunburned and snowed on.  It was about 72 degrees one day and snowing the next.  Then there was hail, and by the time I left it had warmed up again.  I kind of liked it, California’s weather is fairly boring by comparison.


Beer themed activities were as always a big hit.  We brewed up a batch of dunkelweisen to try out some new equipment, and we also planted hops in a couple halves of an old port barrel by the side fence.


BBQ and ice cream are mandatory in Colorado.   I don’t thing I am able to go out there without patronizing LuLu’s and Sweet Cow in Louisville, both of which were has this time around.  The brisket nachos really hit the spot.


I think I’d like to live in Louisville.  I don’t know what I would do there exactly, there doesn’t seem to be a huge demand for software and without a family of my own I wouldn’t really get so much benefit out of the surroundings.  It just seems like a nice place to live, or at least to visit.  Yeah, I’ll stick with visiting.  For myself, I would be happier with a quarter section of land and a hobby farm. I’d probably go broke on the endeavor but the fantasy of living on a farm seems nice compared to sitting in an office all day.

Anyway, now that I’ve been back for a week I sure miss the peeps out there!  I can’t wait to go back!

Is There Electricity Yet?

Seems like it’s been a while since I posted anything here.  I finally received an actual contract from PG&E last week and I sent it back to them, signed, with a check. Hopefully the barn will have power soon!

I spent a couple of days trimming trees and getting rid of the trimmings.  The cutting is actually pretty easy, it’s dealing with the branches once they are on the ground which takes the most time.  I probably got about a quarter of a cord of oak logs out of the deal, or slightly more if you count all of the little stick parts two inches in diameter.  I fed most of the twigs through my chipper; there’s a small pile left owing to the fact that it started raining on Sunday before I had finished with them.


The service mast bracing which I promised in the last post has been installed. It’s not terribly good looking, but this is a rural utility building after all.  The more attractive and more expensive way to do it would be to run the service underground.  I had thought about doing that initially, and one of the neighbors does have an underground service.  Everybody else on the hill has overhead wires.  I decided ultimately to go with overhead to save money.  Since I found out that they can run the service drop without installing any new poles, it’s really saving a bunch.  An underground service would have required a pole to make the transition.

No word yet on exactly when the utility crew can actually come out to run cable and install the meter.

A Good Monday

I took today off of work to get some personal stuff done.  I met PG&E up at the barn project and talked to them about my electrical service.  The new guy thinks he can get the service installed without needing to add a pole.  That will save me some money which I’m quite pleased about, but I’ll have to add bracing to the service mast.  The service drop will be 135 feet long, which will put a lot of tension on the cable.

I installed a dishwasher today!  After having lived in this place for nearly eighteen months I finally got fed up with hand washing dishes, and I ordered a Maytag from Sears.  They called me this morning to let me know that it had arrived, and I was able to get home from the barn in time to pick it up and install it in my kitchen.


There’s nothing remarkable about this particular model, it’s a dishwasher that washes dishes.  I did have some trouble finding a unit which has a food grinder like they all used to have instead of a filter that you need to clean manually.  According to the sales guy ultra-quiet operation is a big selling point in dishwashers these days; most manufacturers have switched from grinders to filters in order to reduce noise.  I don’t really care if I can hear it running and with a grinder I never have to clean out the filter.  Ever.  🙂

I discovered in the process of installation that the receptacle under the kitchen sink isn’t wired for a dishwasher. Usually you would wire it so that one side of the outlet is operated by the disposal switch and the other side is always on for the dishwasher.  In my kitchen however they wired it with both sides switched.  For now I just unplugged the disposal and turned the switch on but I’ll want to fix it properly at a later date.