Well, It’s Friday, Again…

Hello everyone. Ten Internet points will be awarded to the person who correctly identifies the quote that I have modified in the title and lets me know both what it is from and who said it. Hint: once you’ve written something over and over again (like the title for these posts) you start thinking about this.

NB: Internet points are actually useless and will not really be awarded, but you get the idea.

The past week has been disturbingly busy. Lots happening, and even some photos this time around. Still no art, sadly, but that’s because so much needs to get done.

First, though, I have to admit — again — that the guest bathroom paint job is not quite done. The great ant invasion of 2021 is just about over, and I can probably get in there now and finish up, but for a couple of weeks we’ve had ants wandering around in there doing anty (antish? antesque? whatever) things. Enough bait has been offered (and apparently consumed) that the numbers have now dropped to a trickle, which is good. And they never got into anything significant, like food. They didn’t even go for obvious sources of water. Best guess is that the heat wave forced them out of their nest(s) for some reason, but who knows.

Let’s move on to some of the things that did get done, and a few others where progress was made at some level, even if there isn’t a whole lot to show for it yet. I’ll start with the really exciting one:

That’s right. A switch plate.

What you see there is the silly set of switches by the back door. Those paying close attention will note that the leftmost switch is gone, replaced by a blank plate. The other two control two different sets of eave mounted outdoor lights. Why two sets? I have no idea, but one turns on fairly gentle lighting while the other activates motion and light sensor flood lights. Go figure.

Anyway, the third switch is gone because I have started to resolve yet another set of weird issues in this house. When we moved in, that third switch did nothing, and I didn’t know why. Over time we found other things that made no sense as well, including a connector for a set of fairy lights that used to be in the Japanese maple in the back yard. The tree has grown around the connector so thoroughly that it cannot be fully removed. There is also a bunch of odd looking conduit hanging on the exterior wall on the east side of the house, and an extra wire coming out of the ground in the back yard that goes nowhere. Literally it is cut off and doing nothing. Well, to be honest, I am responsible for the wire being cut off. When we moved in there was a plastic junction box that fanned out that wire to multiple (long dead) landscape lighting fixtures. The supply wire was dead (no power) and the lights were all junk as well, so I removed all of that, cut off the wire, and left it for later investigation.

Recently this started to gel when I discovered I could see an electrical wire through the vent holes in the tiny little eave on the back of the house. What on earth was it doing there, and why would it run toward the conduit mess on the east wall? Then I opened one of the electrical boxes on that east wall and found four wires going down into the ground and heading off in uncertain directions.

Finally, I pieced it all together and confirmed it. The third switch in the plate pictured above actually controlled the power in the wire I cut off. It was for the old landscape lighting, and when it worked it was possible to flip the switch to turn it all on and off. By the time we bought the place the lighting was all dead and we didn’t want it anyway, but the skeletal remains of that system were still around.

So, in order to avoid accidentally flipping that switch (which, by the way, I keep typing as “swtich” and having to correct… argh!) I removed it and capped the wires in the box with wire nuts. Now it is impossible to accidentally send power out into that wire, which I also cut off just below ground level to get it out of the way for now.

Future work out there will greatly simplify the wiring on the east wall and eliminate at least some of the conduit over there. At that point there will be photos, but it’s not an immediate need sort of fix.

More important is the electrical supply to the pump that keeps the water feature flowing and provides Tinkerbelle with drinkable (in her opinion only) H2O. This is what the previous owners left us on that front:

Yes, that is a rusty coffee can covering an electrical setup

Yikes! And you can’t see the worst of it because it’s hidden in the can.

One (of the four) wires that comes off the east side of the house carries power to the pump. It comes up here, but it is too long and just hangs out on the surface after coming up out of the ground. Then it threads into the grey conduit you see, where (inside the can) it connects to a GFCI outlet. The pump plugs into that.

I am not showing what’s inside the can because I don’t fiddle with it much. Later. It needs a major rework, which is in process:

Part of the new electrical setup for the pump

That is part of what will replace the coffee can and associated junk. Concrete will keep it all in place and vertical, and the outlet itself will have a switch next to it to turn it off and on, and the entire thing will be in a weatherproof housing.

At the moment the concrete is curing. It’s not that wide around the post so it needs to be fully cured before I remove the forms. I don’t know if this will be done next week or not. There is always a lot going on, but I hope to get it done relatively soon and remove the exposed wire and coffee can from the back yard. That would be a big improvement.

In much less shocking news (See what I did there?) I also repaired the chimney. Back in January I shared this photo:

You probably won’t remember the details, but the chimney leaked in the rain, dripping water and soot all over the candles and mirrors we had inside the fireplace below. The exterior of the chimney was fine. The problem was twofold. First, the cap over the top is too small to keep wind driven water out completely. Second, there were big gaps in the mortar around the chimney vent itself, so water could either fall into the vent or land next to the vent and run down inside the chimney but outside the vent.

That should no longer be possible:

Chimney repair and stupid cap fix

The first photo shows the mortar patch. Note there is no gap around the ceramic chimney vent itself. There used to be a substantial gap around much of it, and from the fireplace below it was possible to see daylight through those gaps. Rain landing on the flat area around the vent could not only run in, but it was practically sure to do so thanks the the dumb way the mortar had been applied. There was a low spot in the middle on the left side of the vent that channelled water straight to a gap. Not anymore. All the gaps are filled and the low spot is gone.

The second photo shows how I am avoiding rain getting into the vent itself. That’s an aluminum baking sheet turned over and held down with a rock. Since we don’t use the fireplace for anything other than candles, the fact that it is covered this way doesn’t matter in the least, and rain should be kept out 100% of the time now. If we or some future owner want to use the fireplace as it was originally intended, the rock and baking sheet lift right off.

Personally I would rather remove the fireplace and chimney entirely, but that would be part of a larger remodel effort that may or may not happen. It might not even be feasible depending on the structural situation in the house. Living with it this way is fine for now.

The ugly green tarp is folded up and back in the garage, which is great. Interestingly, some wasps took up residence under the tarp after it went up. I didn’t get stung — and in fact I didn’t notice the active nest until Anne pointed it out — but let me assure you they are gone now. Wasps are not my favourite things.

Here’s another effort this week:

That stump was another resident of the back yard. It was old and very rotten, to the point that Anne has been shredding it with a pointed piece of bamboo when she was bored.

Some time back I bought a cheap, battery powered chain saw to deal with this, among other things. And I finally got around to cutting it up and removing it. Anne may still shred the wood and scatter it around as mulch, but the stump itself is less of an eyesore now.

The challenge with this effort was that the wood was so rotten it wanted to clog up the saw. It was stringy, and would tear rather than cut. Twice I had to stop, remove the bar & chain, clean out the drive sprocket and discharge chute, and generally make sure the saw could actually operate properly. What a mess. But it is done now, and it looks better.

In things I didn’t (or can’t) photograph, there has been more work on the design of the public art project frame for Langara College, with more work to be done this weekend. And a lot of behind the scenes work for the community association website as well. Again, when I have anything I can reasonably share about those things I will do so.

Finally, I know I haven’t included photos of the canine members of the household lately, so here they are:

Skookie, the downstairs dog

Here’s the very elderly boss, laying at the bottom of the stairs where she can keep track of us all. She’s checking me out to be sure I don’t step on her as I descend into her domain.

Tinkerbelle and her carpet augmentation facility

And here’s Tinkerbelle, on alert upstairs, watching out the double door for anything evil, out of place, or otherwise fun to bark at, including many things she’s made up herself.

And finally:

Cruzer, the dog-shaped pile of neuroses

Cruzer is not sure he want’s his picture taken, but he’s too lazy to get up and do anything about it at the moment.

The weather has been nice lately, with high temperatures in the mid 20’s. It’s lovely, but anything is better than the heat wave. In addition, Covid cases are way down, I am at dose 2+15 days, BC’s total vaccination rate is very high compared with the US, and life is slowly returning to normal. Other than being far too busy — which is all my own fault — I have nothing to complain about.

Everyone take care!

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.