Saturday, November 26, 2022

Mulch Ado About Nothing

When the previous owners ripped out most of the lawn in the yard, they laid down a layer of shredded redwood fiber mulch. This is a rather nice mulch material, as it tends to felt together and form a mat, rather than other styles of bark mulch that just remain loose and chunky forever.

However, over time it does compact and break down, and it was starting to look a bit shabby due to this.

It's rather obvious to see how much the mulch has shrunk and sunk down from the edges.

So naturally there's only one thing to do.

I ordered 7 yards of fresh new mulch to be delivered, which ended up being about $300 for the material and $200 for delivery.

Hmm, this kind of looks like more than 7 yards to me. Oh well, I'm sure the career professionals at the landscaping supply depot are trustworthy and reliable about core functions of their job like this.

Anyway, time to get things spread.

I started with the front yard, since it was literally right there.

This is definitely a huge improvement, and we made a decent dent in the mulch pile. About 3.5 yards worth, I'd say.

Funny though, it looks like there's more than 3.5 yards left.

Oh well, moving on to the back yard and the story is much the same, a huge improvement again.

Yes, this is looking so much better.

Anyway, I'd say I spread about 3 yards in the back, so that should leave us with around about half a yard of mulch still in the pile.

Hmm. Hmmmmmm. You know, it's been a while since I did my math degree, but this feels like more than half a yard to me.

Well, no bother, I'll just spread some out on this patch in the back that I had left bare.

Surprisingly, this didn't seem to make much of a dent on the remaining half yard of mulch. Luckily I had a few more spots I could fill in, like in front of the motorcycles.

And on the east side of the driveway.

And along the huge area behind the retaining wall in the back yard.

Even though I hadn't planned on filling this area in, it was nice to get a layer of mulch down on it. The slope here is pretty steep and the soil doesn't have much structure at all, so the mulch here should help keep the erosion down. Plus it looks nicer than the bare clay soil.

I'm pretty sure that the landscape company actually dropped off more like 10 yards of mulch given how much area it covered and based on my eyeballing the size of the pile. Luckily I had some extra yard I could spread it out over so it worked out pretty much perfectly in the end (though it was a lot more work than I had initially planned on).

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Old Stomping Grounds

Back in the day, specifically when I lived in Cupertino, Stevens Canyon was one of my favourite roads to ride on my bike. Nice and shady in the summer, not too long but not too short, and almost no traffic to speak of. Pretty much the ideal afternoon spin.

I haven't really been back there much since I moved, though. It's a bit out of the way from where I am now, and there's plenty of nice roads around here to keep me busy.

That said, I figured it was time to revisit it.

Most of the times I rode up there, I'd ride as far as the gate at the end and turn around, as there was only a short amount of poorly maintained pavement beyond it which soon gave way to a dirt trail. Not ideal for a road bike.

Of course, that didn't stop me from riding up there on a road bike once. It was rather challenging, particularly due to the lack of traction from the slick tires.

But these days I have a mighty gravel steed, and so no dirt path can stand in my way of enjoying the ride.

Even the leaves on the trail were no match for me.

They were quite pretty though.

I can see my house from up here (not really). What you can also see is that the sun was starting to set, which happens frustratingly early around this time of year.

Everyone who's anyone in the bay area cycling world will know this rock on sight.

It started getting a bit chilly on the way down Montebello, thanks to the complete lack of sunshine. I almost thought about dropping down into the city and making my way home via the direct route, but after a short pit stop near the reservoir I managed to warm up quite a bit and continued along my originally planned route.

In all this was a pretty fantastic ride, and I'm glad I got back out to see the old stomping grounds again.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Good from far, far from good

Some people spend years learning how to form sheetmetal, how to weld, how to apply and smooth bondo, how to lay down perfectly glossy coats of paint.

And then some people realize that spray foam is only $4/can.

A Recurring Infestation

Just when I thought I'd cleared out the last one, I noticed a new pile growing again.

Well, it's pretty small, only one bike part. Maybe if I ignore it, it'll go away?

Well heck.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Pebble Pea-ch

So a while back this hole opened up between my sidewalk and fence.

Where does it go? Narnia?

To the land of the mole-men? The universe may never reveal the truth behind this mystery.

Anyway, I also had this low spot a little further down, and the gardeners that the neighbour hires tend to blow a bunch of leaves and crap through the gap with their leaf blowers whenever they come by.

I asked the neighbour to talk with the gardeners, and it got a bit better for a while before, predictably, getting worse again.

But there is a solution to both of these problems: Pea Gravel!

Uh, Pea Pebbles? Sure, ok. Whatever.

The important thing is that the hole to Narnia is filled.

Take that, Aslan.

And the gap under the fence is all filled back up with rock.

Take that, annoying gardeners.

Since I had a bit left in the bag, I also filled in this gap between the concrete slabs.

I kind of need to repour this section, but whatever.

I also topped up a few more low spots next to the fence, and that was $4 well spent.

Friday, November 11, 2022

While I'm Down There

I've been a little bit concerned for a while at the state of my floors. Specifically, the floors in the craft room and spare room are a little bit uneven and bouncy, and this lead me to worry that the joists, beam or subfloor might be rotted or termited.

Since I was rolling around in the mud down there anyway, I decided to worm my way over to have a look and to my surprise everything looked pristine. There was no sign of rot or termies, and the joists were all well supported on the beam and foundation wall, and the beam was well supported on its piers.

I think the issue might be that the joists are twisting a bit. There's no blocking between them and they span a good 12 feet or so between the beam and the foundation wall. At some point, probably after I get the crawlspace dug out and a french drain installed, I'll go back down there again with some blocking to install between the joists, and then that should presumably tighten up the floor nicely.

But that's a problem for future me to worry about.

Dank Stank

About a week ago we got the first solid rain of the season. This was good in the sense of "it's nice to see water again," but less than ideal in that I still get some moisture issues in my crawl space.

I'm pretty sure that the flooding won't recur, but when the dirt in the crawl space gets a little bit damp (which it still does) it gives off a pretty musty odour. I don't really make a habit of sticking my nose down in my crawl space, so for the most part this isn't a big issue, but unfortunately there's one or two places where the smell can seep up into the rest of the house.

The major place it comes in is through the bathrooms. The two bathrooms are separated, back to back, by a wet wall. This is basically an extra-wide wall with a gap between, making room for all the plumbing and whatnot that needs to fit in that space. However, all that space, combined with the necessary holes along the bottom that the plumbing goes through, means they quite often end up essentially open to the crawl space. Thus we get musty crawl space air inside that wall. And, naturally, that wall itself is far from airtight due to all the plumbing poking through the drywall to reach the various fixtures.

On a previous project I made some minor improvements to this situation by plastering up around the drain pipe for one of the sinks. However, sealing up all these spots perfectly is a fairly tall order (in fact, one place that the air is leaking in is through some screw holes in the back of the medicine cabinet, which would be quite awkward to seal), so this evening I decided to attack things from the other direction.

Armed with a can of Not-so-great Stuff, I crawled down into the dankness and got to spraying. The plumbing leading up to the sinks was pretty well sealed already, but had a few cracks around it. The plumbing for the toilet stack was, likewise, fairly well sealed. However, the shower drain stack, supply lines for the toilet and supply lines for the shower went through two wide open rectangular cut-outs, and so I did my best to foam them up.

Dispensing spray foam above your head in a crawl space is not the easiest task in the world, but I did nonetheless put in an effort to foam it up. I'm not sure if I managed to completely plug up the two huge holes; the way spray foaming something like this works is that it either falls out about 5-10 minutes after you spray it in due to it being just a little bit too heavy and too soft to support itself, or enough of it stays in place long enough for it to start setting up, and it sticks around long enough to inflate to full size over the next day or so.

I'm hoping that I'll end up with the latter, but if not I can always get another can and go at it again, as annoying as that would be.

No pictures this time, since, well, I was crawling around in the mud under my house with a can of spray foam. Taking my phone down there would be begging for trouble.

Frost Freedom

Old Man Winter has descended on the Bay Area, and with him comes the threat of overnight frosts. Last year these frosts made a mess of the lantana that I planted, but this year I decided to try something new.

I've had these moving boxes collecting dust for a while (ever since I moved, coincidentally), and this seems as good a use as any. I'll just be covering up the lantana overnight when there's a frost warning, and the rest of the time the boxes will be in my car hole drying out from the dew that collects on them overnight.