Mike's House Maintenance/Repair Blog
Documenting all the work I do on my new house

This is a blog of all the ongoing maintenance, repairs and updates to my new house as they happen. Owning a house is a lot of work, especially in the beginning. That's OK though. I like having projects to do and keeping busy. Plus everything I do adds value to the house, and just makes it a nicer place to live and entertain. Entries in this blog begin about a month after closing, and missed the first month of really heavy work, including cleaning out all the junk left by the previous owners, and the bulk of the interior repairs and painting that needed to be done before moving in. I was too tired and busy with no energy or time for blogging during that period. Things have slowed down a little now, and I can document things as they happen. One reason for doing this is so I can see over time how often I have to do certain jobs, so I can schedule and budget for them better in the future.

Newer entries are at the top, so if you want to read in chronological order, start at the bottom and read up.

A photo of the newly painted kitchen. 07/16/17 - The kitchen is finally painted!
I have been wanting to paint the kitchen almost since I moved in. It has just been one thing after another getting in the way and taking priority. Finally it is done. My girlfriend volunteered to help and the two of us knocked it out in only a few hours. We put on the first coat, then took a break to go out for lunch and do some shopping, then put on a second coat. It looks great. It is so much brighter in the kitchen now than it was with that dingy yellow color that was on the walls before. The kitchen always seemed so dark. Now I can actually see what I am doing while working in there.

I still need to repaint the trim. It is dingey and chipped in places, but that won't take long. I can knock that out myself some evening. My girlfriend thinks we should repaint the ceiling too. It would be nice to have it a lighter color too, but that is a project for another day. I think the next painting project should be the third bedroom. It is the only room in the house that hasn't yet been repainted since I bought the place (well except for the bathrooms which are ok).

Advice: If you find a woman who volunteers without asking to help you paint, she's a keeper.

My new backyard gas fire pit. 06/20/17 - A new gas fire pit for the back yard.
This is my new gas fire pit in the back yard. I built it a few weeks ago out of some retaining wall blocks that my neighbors threw out when they re-landscaped their yard. I grabbed a bunch of those blocks and stashed them in a corner of my back yard. After they sat there for the better part of a year I decided it was about damn time I did something with them. I went off to Lowes and found an inexpensive wood fire pit. I built the circular ring out of the retaining wall blocks with an inside diameter that fit the fire pit. The fire pit fit into it perfectly. The fire pit included a good looking dome wire mesh lid (not shown) to keep debris out of the pit when not in use.

I originally was planning on burning wood in it. My neighbor has a wood fire pit, and it is sometimes really smoky. I didn't want a smoky fire pit too. Cleaning out the ashes also looked like a pain. So I decided to convert it to gas. I bought a gas burner, a mixing valve and regulator online. I drilled a hole in the bottom to pass the gas pipe through, mounted the burner and mixing valve, and ran the gas line out a gap between the blocks. A long hose leads to a propane tank and regulator. I filled the fire pit with lava rock to cover the burner, and it was done in just an afternoon. It looks good and works great.
Closeup of the fire pit burning. It is a wonderful thing. It is mesmerizing according to my girlfriend as we sat by it into the night shortly after I finished it. It really provides a nice ambiance. It's also great for roasting marshmallows. As a bonus, it also seems to keep mosquitoes at bay. It is nice to sit by it and warm up after a swim in the cool pool. The flame can also be turned down low just for ambiance on warm evenings without giving off too much heat. The whole build was quick, easy and relatively inexpensive. I love it. I'm glad I finally got it done.

The new PVC fence around my backyard. 10/16/16 - The new fence is in!
I finally got a new fence installed around the house. It took forever. The Fence companies are all so backed up that it took months just to get estimators to come out and give me estimates. All the estimates were nearly identical. So I went with A-1 Fence, a company that a friend of mine used and was very happy with. Then it took a few more months to get the fence installed. It was partly my own fault since I have been traveling so much, both for work, and for a long vacation I just took. Then the hurricane came through and screwed up the scheduling again. Finally though, everything aligned, and the installation finally happened. This is a view of the west side of the back yard.
The south side gate into the backyard. Here is a view of the south side of the fence from the street side of the house. It has a manway gate in it, just wide enough to pass a person and a lawnmower through. The fence looks so good, I am going to have to paint the house now too.
The north side gate into the backyard. This is a view of the north side of the fence from the street side of the house. It has a double wide gate in it that leads back to the RV parking pad beside the house. A-1 Fence did a really great job. I highly recommend them.

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08/06/16 - My neighbor's battle to the death with the large oak tree in his front yard that is damaging his foundation continues. This time he is cutting down the part hanging over his own house.

UPDATE: The tree has finally been reduced to nothing but a 15 foot tall stump. He is pondering what to do about that. I jokingly suggested dynamite. I hope he realized I was joking.

07/23/16 - I haven't posted anything to the house blog in a long time. Truth is, I haven't done much to the house in a while other than continue to decorate the interior. All the regular maintenance goes on, but I no longer write about it since I lack time. Finally something novel worth posting about has happened. My neighbor is taking down the large oak tree in his front yard that is damaging his foundation. I thought I should document it just in case something went horribly wrong since it also over-hangs my house.

UPDATE: So the really scary big limb that was hanging over my house came down OK. After that, I left for about six hours. When I got back the big limbs that were hanging over my fence and side yard were gone too, and there was no apparent damage. But my neighbor immediately 'fessed up that he had knocked the fence down when the limbs came down. He had spent much of the day rebuilding it. He did a good job. I might not have even noticed if he hadn't told me.

12/20/15 - Wow, it's been almost a month since my last post to the House Blog. I've been crazy busy with work, so not much has really gone on around the house. A few things have been done since my last entry, but never got written up. One thing I did was go up on the back porch roof and re-caulk some of the seams up there. They were starting to leak again when it rained, and now that I have my kilns on the porch, that's not good. Haven't had a serious rain since then, so I don't really know yet if it worked.

This weekend I decided to really get some stuff done. The temperatures are finally cooling down after our unusually warm Autumn. Just before the first day of Winter, the weather actually got chilly. So I decided to take the solar panels out of the pool circulation circuit. The pool temp has plummeted, even with the panels in. So they aren't doing much any more. I guess I am done swimming until the Spring. The improved circulation without the panels in may help with the spotty algae growth that happens in the south side of the pool. I'm hoping anyway.

I also cleaned all the leaves out of the pool. Yes, it's that time of year again. The oak trees are starting to shed their leaves, and most of them seem to end up in my pool. The next month or two the pool is really going to catch hell.

Took advantage of the cool weather to get up in the attic and do some work. It's too hot up there most of the year to go up there except for something really important. I put down some more sheets of plywood to enlarge the floor area. Then I moved some rarely used stuff from the garage and closets up into the attic for storage. This opened up some extra floor space in the garage. I re-arranged things to take advantage of it and make the garage workshop more functional.

I got a lot of work in on several projects this weekend too. I made good use of the cool outdoor weather, and the the more open garage space to work on a variety of different projects. Most importantly, probably, is that I am firing glass in one of my kilns. Yippie! Finally I am back in the glass casting and fusing business. Can't wait to see how this initial firing turns out.

Last night it was cold enough to start a fire in the fireplace for the first time since last Winter. Had an enjoyable evening streaming a few episodes of my favorite shows and just chilling in my recliner beside a warm, crackling fire. Life is good.

My three kilns on my back porch. 11/22/15
Busy day at the homestead today. Among other things, I have moved all my kilns out onto the back porch. Here is a photo of the Three Amigos in their new home. From left, they are nicknamed Clarkson, May, and Hammond. Getting them out here opened up a lot of room in the garage. I will be re-arranging things out there to take advantage of the new space. I also brushed down, vacuumed the pool. I swapped out the pool cartridge filter for the spare one, and cleaned the dirty one. Adjusted pool chemistry and added some algaecide. Pool temp holding at 80 degrees F. Then I hit all the pool furniture with mildew remover since they were starting to get dingy looking. They all look like new again. Several loads of laundry got done, and grocery shopping was accomplished. I bought some firewood in anticipation of cooler weather ahead and and maybe using the fireplace for the first time this season. After all that, I had enough time and energy left to work on several projects late into the evening.

The first test firing of my big kiln. 11/19/15
I reached an important milestone today. This is an image of the first test firing of my large Paragon kiln. It's been a long time coming. I bought this kiln dirt cheap in a thrift store about two years ago. It was a wreck. I rebuilt it, but had no way to test it, and nowhere to use it. It went into storage. After buying this house, I brought it here from storage, but still had no way to test it. I spent my first year here hemming and hawing about where to set it up and how to wire it. I went round and round on where to install it. My first idea was the screened in back porch. Then it was the garage. Then I had the idea of installing it in a leantoo shed on the side of the house. Problems: I didn't want to sacrifice the porch, I didn't want to heat up the garage, and I couldn't find a shed that worked in the spot it had to go. Finally, about a week ago, I decided screw it, The kiln was going on the back porch. The issue of running the heavy wiring to the kiln had been a major holdup. I decided to just drop the coin it was going take to get a 50 foot, 50 Amp, RV extension cord, and run it from the back porch, around the back of the house, to the RV power outlet on the north side of the house. I built a bulkhead to pass the cord through the screened porch. I made an adapter to go from the RV cable to the kiln plug. I put it all together in only a couple of hours, and threw the switch. It works!!! Should have done this a year ago.

This kiln is easily large enough to cast and slump telescope mirror blanks up to maybe 20 inches in diameter, and maybe even a little bigger. When I bought it, it was in terrible shape. It had broken bricks and bad elements. I bought it for a song from a thrift store. It originally had three segments. I tore the kiln to bits and rebuilt it as a two segment kiln using the good parts from the three segments. I had no access to a 50 Amp 240 V outlet, so I couldn't test it to see if it worked. I checked it every which way I could with my meter, and was fairly confident it would work. The kiln had no base. So I had to build a steel base for it. I cut down the base from an old table saw to make a stand for the kiln. I also built a wheeled cart for it to make moving the huge and heavy kiln more manageable. The kiln has languished in storage for nearly two years. It was very gratifying to see it fire up with no problems first try.

Ok, so the kiln works, and I have power to the porch. That's all great, but I don't have a ramp/soak controller that can handle the 50 Amp load of the kiln. Not yet anyway. That is the next project. I have collected most of the necessary bits and pieces. It's just a matter of putting them all together. In the mean time, I have decided to sacrifice the porch, and move all my kilns out there. My smaller Skutt kiln, and my little Duncan kiln can run out there with my current home-made ramp/soak kiln controller now that there is power available. So I will soon be back in the business of casting large telescope mirrors. And in the not too distant future, I will be casting giant mirrors. This has been a good day.

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10/21/15 - Success! The washer is fixed! The new pump motor arrived today. I installed it without any problem. The washer re-assembled quickly and fairly easily. The only difficult part was getting the circular spring back on that holds the door gasket in place. That took several tries before I got it right. I ran the machine through two complete cycles. It runs perfectly and doesn't leak. So that's a great result. The new motor only cost $39.95 plus shipping from Amazon.com. That's a fraction of what an appliance repair man would have charged me to make a house call. Plus I learned a lot. Just call me the Maytag Man.

The washer taken apart to get at the drain pump. 10/19/15 - Well I'm not as lucky as I thought I was. The motor on the washer's drain pump is seized up. Still, getting the washer apart was much easier than I thought it would be. This video was invaluable. If you own the same model Samsung washer, then you should watch it. I had my washer apart and the pump out in less than 10 minutes. I couldn't find anything blocking the impeller, but it would only move back and forth a little bit. I removed the motor from the pump, and a lot of nasty, oily, water ran out of it. The seal had failed and water had gotten into the pump and seized the bearings.

The drain pump motor is the white unit at the lower left of the washer. I had not yet removed it from the frame when I took this photo. Click the photo for a larger view.

It took less than 5 minutes of searching online to find a new pump motor at Amazon.com (and not terribly expensive either). I ordered it, and it should be here in a couple of days. Hopefully the washer will go back together as easily as it came apart.

10/18/15 - The joys of being a homeowner never end. I finished demolishing a huge compost bin the previous owners built. I started demolishing it last weekend. Then I trimmed the hedges and shrubs. All my trash bins are full of yard debris and out by the road for pickup tomorrow.

Then my washing machine started acting up. It wouldn't drain, stopped mid-cycle, and began throwing error codes. I did a little trouble-shooting. Something is stuck in the drain pump and the impeller won't turn. Found a video on Youtube about how to disassemble the washer and replace the pump on my model of washer. I might just be able to clear the pump if I can get to it, which is going to require much disassembly. Too late today. That is a project for another day. I used my wet-dry vac to suck the water out of the sump of the machine so it would go into its spin cycle and finish the load. Fortunately it happened on my last load of laundry. So I now have plenty of clean clothes if it takes me a while to get it fixed. There is also a coin laundry only a few blocks away if I need to wash a load or two before I get it fixed.

Added some chlorine and about 1 inch of water to the pool. It's getting cool. Pool temp down to 84 F even with the solar panels in the loop.

Just another Sunday in suburbia. Actually it wasn't so bad. The weather is wonderful right now. So it was a joy to be outside. Even the washer acting up couldn't ruin my mood.

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10/11/15 - It's October, and the weather is finally starting to cool off a little. It only gets into the 80s during the day instead of the 90s. Makes it more pleasant, or at least bearable, to work outside. So today I decided to demolish the huge wooden compost bin the previous owners had built in the north yard. It was rotting away and rapidly turning into compost itself. I smashed it apart with my sledge hammer, and cut it up with my circular saw into pieces that would fit into my trash bins. I got most of it in the bins before they were too full for any more. I'll dispose of the rest after trash day tomorrow when the bins will be empty again. I cut some of the less rotted and termite infested wood into 16 inch lengths to burn in my fireplace this winter. I suspect is is going to be another cold winter. I stacked the wood to dry out in my hot storage shed. I also got rid of a potting table that was also rotting away near the compost bin. I used it for various things my first few months here, but the weather has really taken a toll on the cheap wood it was made of. It clearly wasn't meant for continuous outdoor use. It was rapidly falling apart.

I haven't had any luck finding a lean-too type shed of the kind I want for housing my big kilns. So I am toying with the idea of just building one myself. I could probably do the job in a weekend. I'm going to sketch out a few ideas and estimate material costs and labor time for me to do it. That may be something I tackle in the next month or two. I really want to get my kilns online in a weather-proof enclosure outside of the garage. So my garage workshop doesn't become unbearably hot during a kiln run.

Added a new jumbo chlorinating tablet to the pool floater. Note to self: Need to buy more tablets soon. Pool temp has risen from a low of about 83 F back up to almost 88 F since putting the roof solar panels back in the pool circulation loop. This in spite of most of the last week being kind of gloomy and cool. The pool water level is dropping faster than it was before. It is raining less now than earlier in the summer, but I don't think evaporation can account for all the water loss. I suspect the panels on the roof are leaking to some extent. I have seen a few drips, but nothing heavy. Most of the water may be evaporating as it runs down the hot roof shingles before it drips off the edge of the roof. Anyway, wherever the water is going, I have had to top up the pool twice since putting the panels back in the circulation loop.

10/04/15 - I've kind of gotten away from recording every mundane job around the house like mowing the lawn, or cleaning and chlorinating the pool. All that stuff still happens as frequently as ever. My job just keeps me too busy to blog much about it these days.

This weekend I did manage to do some work around the house. I started by taking the ventilation fan down from the ceiling of the master bathroom. I gave the bearings a good dose of lubrication, and it seemed to run a lot smoother. So I put it back up. The fan is running quieter than ever. I don't know how long this is going to last, so I bought a new fan at Lowes and have it on hand so I can replace the old one the next time it acts up.

Next I installed a chrome ring around the shower control knob in the master bath shower. The knob just poked out of a jagged hole in the tile of the shower wall. It was ugly, and water could get into the wall. Been meaning to do that for a long time. Finally got it done. It looks a lot better, and should keep water from getting behind the tile.

I had plans for some outside work too, but it rained on and off all weekend, so I mostly stayed inside. It's a shame, because the weather was quite cool and comfortable outside for a change. The one outdoor chore I got done was putting the roof solar heating panels back in the pool circulation loop. Now that it is starting to get cooler, they are needed again.

I worked on several projects in the garage workshop over the weekend, including getting in some work on my new CNC mill project, which has languished since last spring. I also get a little work done on my truck between rainstorms. It was a very productive weekend.

09/29/15 - Checked the chlorine level in the pool. It was fine. I can tell the days are getting shorter and the pool is being shaded by the big oak tree to the west more because the chlorine is lasting longer in the pool. I used to have to add some every couple of days. Now it is down to once or maybe twice per week. It has been stormy the last couple of days. A lot of leaves had been blown into the pool. I vacuumed the leaves out, emptied the leaf skimmer, and emptied the pump filter basket. Then I went for a swim. Spent a while after my swim sitting by the pool reading. A sudden rain storm chased me into the house before I could get far into my new book.

I dodged a bit of a plumbing bullet. I found water on the floor of the master bathroom a couple of times. It was behind the toilet. I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. Everything around the toilet seemed to be dry. I was starting to worry that maybe there was a leak in the pipes behind the wall and it was running out under the baseboard. Then one time after flushing the toilet movement caught my eye. Water was running out around the flush handle and running around the back side of the toilet and dripping on the floor. I looked inside the toilet tank. The water level was much too high. It was above the level where the flush handle entered the tank. The float was hanging up and letting the water rise too high before it finally popped up and shut off the water flow. After a couple of attempts at adjusting the float, that fixed the problem.

But then another problem popped up. The bearings in the ventilation fan in the bathroom seem to have gone bad. It is making a horrible screeching noise when I turn it on, and grinds to a near stop after a few seconds of running. Looks like I am going to have to replace the fan.

09/22/15 - I just got back from vacation. I was pleasantly surprised to see that nothing fell down this time while I was gone. The pool had some accumulated leaves in it, and water level was a little low, but otherwise it was in good shape. I had mowed the front and back yards before I left. It obviously didn't rain much while I was gone because the grass hasn't grown much. The low water level in the pool also tells me it didn't rain much while I was gone. I added some liquid chlorine to the pool, and a new jumbo chlorine tablet to the floating dispenser. I also added about 3/4 of an inch of water to the pool. First time in a long time I have had to add water. I emptied the skimmer basket and vacuumed the leaves out of the pool. Then I emptied the pump strainer basket. After all that, I was ready for a swim. Pool temp 85 degrees F. Just about perfect. Cool enough to be refreshing after working hard, but not too cold. It is nearly the end of September. The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting cooler. It may be about time to put the solar heating panels back into the pool circulation circuit to keep the water from cooling off too quickly.

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08/30/15 - I actually managed to get a little work done around the house today. The third bedroom was becoming a catchall for junk, so I cleaned a lot of stuff out of it. I spent quite a while working out in the garage on various projects. Added chlorine to the pool. It is going to need vacuuming again soon. The front yard also needs mowing. Late in the day, dark clouds moved in and the temperature dropped, so I took the opportunity to do some yard work without the sun beating down on me. I went after the jasmine on the back fence with the hedge trimmers and cut it back quite a bit. Then I took my machete to all the dead fronds on the dwarf date palms (not sure of their real name). They looked like they hadn't been trimmed and cleaned up in years. That corner of the yard was becoming an eyesore. Now it is open and clean. I filled one of the big trash bins with yard debris. Note to self, I need to buy a rake and sharpen my machete. I had worked up quite a sweat in spite of the cloudcover. The pool temp is down to 85 F after a few cloudy and rainy days. I was looking forward to a swim to cool off. But just As I finished cleaning up and wheeling the trash bins out to the street, the lightning and thunder started up big time. Swimming wasn't looking like a good idea. So I contented myself with watching the lightning storm from the back porch while I cooked dinner on the grill.

08/23/15 - It has been brutally hot and humid the last few days. Upper 90s and oppressively humid. Friday I decided to vacuum the pool. I waited until after sunset and did it with the underwater light on for illumination. Saturday I mowed the back yard. Again, I waited until late in the afternoon. The yard also needs weed-eating, and shrub trimming, but there was no way. I was beat and a sweaty mess after the mowing. I took a dip in the pool. Pool temp 90 F. Needless to say, it didn't cool me off much. I finally bought the big new TV I wanted for the living room. I got a 55 inch Saturday evening and set it up. It is a much better fit to the huge living room. I like it. Sunday was mostly an indoor project day. I spent much of the day working in my newly air conditioned garage and worked on my hobby projects. I did need to spray paint some things outside, and I also shocked the pool. Those simple and quick outside projects got me all sweaty again. I hope the weather starts cooling off soon.

08/18/15 - I haven't posted much lately. Been working long, hard hours and haven't had the time or energy to do much around the house, except for the usual maintenance like mowing and pool upkeep. I just didn't have the time or energy left to write about it. Speaking of the pool, it is staying remarkably clean in spite of daily storms. It is just at the point of looking like it needs vacuuming again. I have been swimming a lot lately and I usually dive down and grab any leaves on the bottom. That helps keep the pool looking good., but a lot of tiny bits of debris are accumulating. The pool temp is back up to just shy of 90 degrees F. It is the hottest time of year. The AC is working hard to cool the house and the pool is very warm. But the days are getting shorter. The sun is moving south. The big oak tree in my west neighbor's yard is shading the pool again in the afternoon. So the temp should start dropping off soon. I did find the energy to hit the joints in the driveway with weed killer again. I also added chlorine to the pool after having a swim, and put a new jumbo chlorine tablet in the floater. Algae has not been an issue since I got the CYA level down in the pool. The water is blue and clear, and just feels better on my skin.

One issue I did run into recently is that the decorative wood trim on the front of the house had a carpenter ant infestation. They were getting into the kitchen somehow (through tiny gaps around the front window I guess). I got some carpenter ant poison concentrate at Lowes. I mixed up a gallon of it in a pump spray jug and soaked the wood with it about a week ago. The ants disappeared from the kitchen almost immediately. I haven't seen a live one in days. I went out today and gave the wood another soaking just to be sure. The wood probably needs to be removed. It's not original to the house. I don't think it really adds to the looks of the place. Someday when I finally decide to paint the house I'll probably just demo it, patch the holes, and paint the wall.

08/09/15 - I kind of goofed off today. After the last few crazy weeks at work, I needed some downtime. This is the first day in about three weeks that I didn't go into work for at least a few hours. No house related projects got worked on today, in spite of a long list of things that need to be done. I did spend some time out in the workshop working on a couple of my hobby projects. The new AC out there helps a lot. Today was a very hot day. The AC made the workshop quite comfortable in the morning and evening. It still got kind of warm out there during the hottest part of the day. The exhaust hose for the AC gets very hot. It acts like a space heater radiating heat into the garage. I'll look for some sort of insulated hose to replace or cover it with. That should help keep things cooler. Went for a swim in the evening once the shadows got long and the temperature dropped a bit. Lounged by the pool reading for a while and then cooked dinner on the grill. A very relaxing day.

08/08/15 - AM: Vacuumed the pool. Emptied the pump filter basket. Changed out the pool cartridge filter for the spare filter and cleaned the dirty one. Added chlorine. The pool is very clean and blue. The algae problem seems to be well under control. The only down side is that the copper algaecide has caused some staining. I won't be using any more of that. PM: went for a swim after going in to work for a while, then a long day of pushing glass at the SPAC Mirror Lab. Pool temp about 84 degrees F. A little chilly after weeks of stormy weather, but nice after working so hard.

08/04/15 - It rained again today, but it was only a normal, brief summer type shower. The sun was out most of the day, and things are starting to dry out. The standing water in the back yard has drained away. The area in front of the storage shed is still a little boggy, but at least no wading is required to get into the shed. Checked pool chemistry. The chlorine level was quite low, as I expected it to be after all the rainwater that had been dumped into the pool. I added chlorine. The cyanuric acid level is down to about 45 ppm. That's great, and Mother Nature provided most of the fresh water to get it there. I used the brush and net to once again clean all the leaves out of the pool. Hopefully it will stay clean for a while now that the strange stormy weather has moved out. The pool needs vacuuming and the back yard needs mowing. Been working very long hours this week. Too tired for heavy labor. Those chores will have to wait for another day.

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08/03/15 - It was a terrible stormy day today. Easily the worst yet in this cycle of storms. A horrendous thunderstorm woke me up at 4:00 am and wouldn't let me get back to sleep. Bright lightning and loud thunder crashed every few seconds until it was time for me to get up. It rained and stormed bad all day. The streets were flooding and traffic lights were out on the drive to work. It was as dark as evening until midday. There is terrible flooding to the north of me and in Tampa. The pool water level rose by at least three inches in less than 12 hours. It is also just full of leaves again after I cleaned them all out yesterday. The low spot in the back yard has standing water in it. The neighbor's yard is flooded. The streets in the neighborhood all have standing water on them. The only good news is that the weather system that has been dumping all this crazy rain on us for weeks is finally moving away. The sun was actually peeking through the clouds by late afternoon. There is only the normal 20% chance of rain in the forecast for the next week. Maybe things will start dying out a little. I drained about 1.5 inches of water from the pool. May drain more tomorrow. The back yard needs mowing, but it is a swamp right now. Needs to dry out a little. The jasmine needs trimming back too. Will add chlorine to the pool as soon as I don't have to wade through water to get to the storage shed.

08/02/15 - It has been another incredibly stormy and rainy weekend. It just isn't stopping. The storms have really thrashed the trees in the area. There is a lot of dead wood and leaves dropped everywhere. The pool was absolutely trashed with leaves and small sticks, and the skimmer was plugged. It looked like one of the bad days last winter when the oak trees were dropping their leaves. I used the brush and net to get most of the debris out of the pool. No time to vacuum before it started raining again. No point in vacuuming until the storms stop anyway. Cleaned up a lot of the dead wood from the neighbor's trees that landed on my front yard.

That was about all the outside work I could get done this weekend. So I spent some time working on various projects in my newly air conditioned garage workshop. Not that the AC had to work terribly hard since we haven't seen the sun in days. It did remove a few gallons of water from the air out there. Anyway, it is nice to be able to work out there again without becoming a sweaty mess.

Cooked dinner on the grill for the first time in a while.

07/29/15 - I ran out between rainstorms and brushed down the walls of the pool, and used the net to get the bulk of the leaves out of it. The weather didn't hold long enough for me to vacuum it. I did manage to add some flocculate and algaecide before having to retreat back into the house out of the next rainstorm. Checked pool chemistry. The CYA level is down to about 55 ppm.

One of the seams in the back porch roof is leaking again during the heavy downpours. I'll have to get back up there someday with some more mastic.

07/28/15 - I managed to get the front yard mowed between rainstorms. Also applied some weed killer in places. I hope it had time to work before the next storm came through. Added some chlorine to the pool. Put another jumbo chlorinating tablet in the floater. Drained about an inch of water from the pool. Still needs vacuuming, but no time today. The low spot near the shed in the back yard is quite a bog. Getting the mower in and out and adding chlorine to the pool is starting to seem like trip through the Everglades Swamp. I may need to build an air boat.

The portable air conditioner for the garage. 07/27/15 - I stopped at Lowes on the way home from work to buy a portable air conditioner. I wanted the 1200 BTU model That should be good enough to keep the garage workshop livable. That model normally costs $419. The only one in the store was an open box unit marked down to $375. I was a little worried about buying an open box unit, but a Lowes employee said it will have the same warranty as an un-opened one. We looked through the box and everything appeared to be present. So I bought it. Brought it home and set it up. I removed the fan I had mounted in front of the window of the side door and ran the hot air exhaust from the AC out of it. It works! Everything seemed to work great at first. It blows a huge amount of cold air. The garage started cooling down. Then I saw a puddle growing under the unit. A rubber plug for the condensate drain was missing. That's the peril of buying an open box unit. I attached the drain hose to the condensate drain and ran it into a bucket to catch the condensate for now. I'll find a 25 cent rubber stopper to replace the missing plug. No problem.

I'm happy with how well it works. I let it run for an hour while making dinner, The garage cooled down (and dried out) quite nicely. I'm going to be able to work in my workshop in the Summer without dying of heat stroke! This is fantastic.

This AC unit will also come in handy if a hurricane or other bad storm puts the power out for an extended period of time like happened back in 2004. I will be able to run this unit with my generator and keep one room of the house reasonably cool. Preparedness is a beautiful thing.

In other news, front yard needs mowing, the pool still needs vacuuming, and it is still raining. It is pouring as I write this. It has been raining all day. This is the fourth very heavy rain just today. It never really stops between heavy rains, it just slows down to a drizzle. The forecast calls for more rain as far into the future as the forecast goes. I've lived in Florida for most of my life, but I don't think I've ever seen such a rainy Summer.

The new ceiling in the garage. 07/26/15 - I finished the ceiling in the garage! It is already 1000% better out there with the hot and humid air from the attic blocked. The garage is quite comfortable with a fan blowing cool air from the house into it. I've got my workshop back! That is just a temporary measure though. My next job is to get a portable air conditioner for the garage. That will keep dust and fumes out of the house as I work on my projects out there, and keep the main house AC from having to run constantly to keep the garage cool.

The new attic bulkhead. I used a spare piece of foam to make a bulkhead for the attic access hole too. So now the garage is pretty well sealed off from the attic.

Added some chlorine to the pool. The pool desperately needs vacuuming, but I was too tired after finishing the garage ceiling to tackle it today.

After all the rain, (including another massive drenching today), there is some standing water in the northwest part of the back yard near the storage shed. That is obviously the low spot in the yard. My neighbor to the north is lower and their yard has a lot of standing water in it, and he told me it flooded their back porch to during the worst of the rain. So this is kind of a preview of the water situation if (when) we get a hurricane come through here and dump massive quantities of rain on us. I'm pretty confident my house isn't going to flood. My neighbor to the north may not be so lucky.

07/25/15 - The water exchange in the pool goes on. This time though Mother Nature is providing the water. We have had days of very heavy rain. It is coming down in buckets as I write this. The pool fills up. I pump water out. At least the water isn't costing me anything but a little dampness as have to go outside under my umbrella to open and close the dump valve. The CYA level is below 60 ppm and falling. So that is a good thing. The constant storms have been thrashing my neighbor's oak tree and there are a lot of leaves in the pool. If the rain ever lets up for a while, I'll vacuum it. I'll need to add chlorine too after all the fresh water that has been dumped into it. Wouldn't be surprised if the pH is also rising. Might have to address that too.

Took advantage of the fact that we haven't seen the sun in a few days and it is reasonably cool in the garage to install some more of the rigid foam panels on the ceiling. Will do more tomorrow. Hopefully I can get it done soon, and have my workshop back.

07/19/15 - Vacuumed the pool. Ran the pool water exchange for another few hours today. Mowed and edged the back yard. Did a little more work on the ceiling of the garage. Worked on the truck a little bit. After all that, I was a sweaty mess and ready for a swim. After about three days of gray, stormy weather and all the cool tap water that has gone into the pool, the temp is down to about 84 F. Kind of chilly, but very refreshing. Checked pool chemistry. The CYA level is down to about 70 ppm. Still higher than I would like, but a whole lot better than it has been. After my swim I shocked the pool and ran the circulation pump for a while into the evening.

07/17/15 - Ran the pool water exchange for about another four hours today. The cloudiness is almost entirely gone and the water is very clear. After letting things mix for a while, I took a sample and measured the chemistry. The CYA level was a little below 80 ppm. Hooray! It's working, and it was so easy. I just start it all running, and walk away for a few hours. I guess I will be in for a shock when I get the water and sewer bill for this, but hopefully it won't be necessary more than once or twice per year. I need to get the CYA level lower yet. So there will be at least one more water exchange run.

07/16/15 - The new tap for draining the pool works like a dream. I ran a hose over to the RV dump station and opened the tap. It drops the water level in the pool by an inch in less than half an hour. Much faster than I expected. I had to run the garden hose into the pool full blast to keep the water level from continuing to drift downward. I let this water exchange run for about four hours until it was getting dark. I added a little extra chlorine to the pool. Another run like that should start making a real difference in the pool water quality. It rained hard all night, and was still raining when I left for work the next morning. I expect to find the pool water level high from rainwater when I get home. Sweet! Fresh water that I didn't have to pay for. Days of stormy, gray weather have dropped a lot of leaves into the pool, and dropped its temperature down to the mid 80s F. If it ever quits raining long enough, I'll vacuum the pool.

The new discharge tap for draining water from the pool. 07/15/15 - Checked pool chemistry. Chlorine was low. Added chlorine. Installed the new tap on the discharge side of the pool circulation pump. This is going to make draining water from the pool super easy. I got a little sloppy with the PVC primer, but otherwise the installation was really easy and only took about 5 minutes. Good thing too because I only had about a 5 minute window between rainstorms to do the work. Opening the tap quickly floods the north side yard. I'll need to get about 30 feet of garden hose to reach to the RV dump station beside the big RV parking pad on the north side of the house. Then I will be able to change the water in the pool easily and without flooding the neighborhood.

Whoever originally built my house loved their toys. There is a 50 foot long concrete RV parking pad on the north side with dump station and RV power outlet, and a wide double gate through the fence. The south side also has a wide double gate, but no pad. I suspect it was used for parking a boat trailer.

Storms all afternoon blew a lot of leaves into the pool. It will need vacuuming again.

In the evening I started putting up the new rigid foam ceiling in the garage. It was hot and super humid out there after all the rain. I quickly became a sweaty mess and quit after only accomplishing a depressingly small amount of work. I'll keep plugging away at it a bit at a time until it is done.

07/14/15 - it's been a while since I posted an entry. Been busy with other projects. Here is a quick catch-up on what has been going on.

The cyanuric acid level in the pool hasn't dropped any since I put the second bag of reducer in it. In fact, if I can believe the tests, it is still rising. This makes no sense. I suspect the copper algaecide I had added to to the pool a while back may have inhibited the action of the cyanuric acid reducer. Also, reading the label of the bottle, the algaecide also has some kind of stabilizer in it. Maybe it is making the level appear to increase. The pool water is also a little cloudy for some reason, which can also make the CYA test read higher. The cloudiness happened after putting in the copper algaecide. I don't know if it is some sort of precipitate or what. Flocculent doesn't seem to help. Anyway, I am pretty much done trying to rehabilitate the water in the pool. It's time to change it out. I bought some plumbing fittings that will allow me to add a tap to the discharge of the circulation pump. I'll let the pump drain the pool while I refill it with the garden hose. I'll install the fittings soon. On the bright side, other than the slight cloudiness, the pool is sparkling clean and blue. Chemistry is good except for CYA. Vacuumed it two days ago.

I bought six 4X8 sheets of rigid foam insulation and some roofing nails. I will use this stuff to close up the open area of the garage ceiling. Then I can work on installing an air conditioner out there to make it more bearable to work out there.

My electric bill jumped up by $100 in the last month. Not sure what is going on. The AC does seem to be running a lot more, but it is also the hottest time of year. I changed out all three air filters, even though they really didn't look too bad. The AC ducts in the attic may be leaking. Anyway, it is a big house. That just may be what it costs to keep it cool during the Dog Days of Summer in Florida.

Mowed the front yard last night. Need to trim the shrubs out front.

07/06/15 - Checked pool chemistry. The cyanuric acid level is creeping back up. It is back up over 120 ppm. Several readers of this blog had written to me earlier and said that based on their experiences, the level could rise again. They theorize that the CYA gets absorbed into the walls and piping of the pool, and releases back into the water over time. Anyway, whatever the reason, it is creeping up. It is already too high. Properly shocking the pool requires impractically large amounts of chlorine at these levels. So I put another bag of CYA reducer into the pool today. I had bought this bag online a while back. It was quite a bit cheaper than buying it at the pool store. The last bag of reducer dropped the level by about 50%. If this bag can produce another 50% reduction, it will bring the level down to something more manageable. If it is still too high, I will just have to bite the bullet and partly drain and refill the pool. Going to take a few days to know. On the bright side, the algae seems to be under control at the moment.

07/05/15 - AM: Fixed sagging fence on south side of back yard. Did a better job on the west side fix. Counted up the number of 8 foot fence segments that will be needed to totally replace the fence so I can kind of estimate the cost. It is HOT! The dog days are definitely here. Retreated into the house a sweaty mess. Should have gotten an earlier start. PM: Went to Home Depot to pick up a few things. Spotted some rigid insulation boards. Had the idea of using them instead of sheet rock to fix the open ceiling of the garage. It is lighter, easier to handle, and provides some insulation. Plus it is about the same price as sheet rock. Seems like a no-brainer. Added about 3/4 inch of water to the pool to make up for evaporation. Shortly thereafter it rained hard and long. Go figure. Got about another half inch of water in the pool. The level is pretty high. Round two of thunderstorms came through late in the afternoon. It never rained here a second time, but the cloud cover and cool breezes from the nearby storms prompted me to get out and mow the back yard. Took a swim afterwards to cool off. Pool temp about 87 F. Just about perfect. The Jasmin on the fence is running wild again. Needs some serious trimming back.

07/04/15 - Checked pool chemistry. Chlorine back down to 1 ppm. It seems to drop down about 1 ppm per day. At least it has become consistent and predictable. Added enough liquid chlorine to bring the level back up to 3 ppm. Long day at the Mirror Lab. Too tired for a swim today.

07/03/15 - AM: Made a temporary repair to the sagging fence on the west side of the back yard. Damn, it is hot today. Will need to go to Lowes and pick up some lumber to fix other areas and maybe do a better job on the area I put the temporary fix on. At least I'm not as worried about the fence blowing over if a strong wind out of the east comes up. A couple of hours later an early afternoon thunderstorm came through from the east. The fence still stands! PM: went to Lowes and picked up some pressure treated lumber to fix other areas of sagging fence. Looked at various fencing options for replacement. Lazy today. Didn't get much else done on my to do list.

07/02/15 - Checked pool chemistry. Good, but chlorine at the low end of acceptable. Went for a swim. It has been a cloudy rainy day. Incredibly the pool temp has dropped 4 degrees F in 24 hrs. Much cooler and more refreshing. I exercised vigorously in the cool water, until I was nearly exhausted. It felt good. After my swim I added enough liquid chlorine to bring the level back up to 3 ppm, and let the circulating pump run for a while into the evening to mix it in.

I contemplated temporary repairs to sagging sections of the fences on the south and west sides of the yard. I have a long weekend ahead of me. I should be able to tackle it in the next few days. I need to get serious about deciding what I want to do with the fences and get some estimates.

I get questions emailed to me from readers of this blog. One question they often ask is why did I buy all the testing tools I have for the pool when I can just take a sample to the pool supply store and get a free test? Well there are three reasons.
#1. I like to do things myself where possible and not depend on other people.
#2. I like to learn how and why things are done, and understand how things work, not just have the answers given to me.
#3. I have heard stories from some of my friends and acquaintances about the guys at the pool store telling them they needed unnecessary chemicals and additives, and trying to sell them unneeded filter and pump upgrades. I prefer to go to the store knowing exactly what I need and not have to depend on a salesman to tell me.

It has been a learning experience. I am finally starting to feel like I understand pool chemistry. Everything is right in line, and the pool looks great. It is behaving more consistently and predictably.

07/01/15 - Checked pool chemistry. Looking good. Went for a swim. Pool quite warm. Just barely below the 90 degree F mark on my floating thermometer. Grabbed all the leaves that have been blown into the pool lately. It looks much better now. I can put off vacuuming it for a while.

06/30/15 - My phosphate test kit finally arrived. Tested the pool. Phosphate level very low. Excellent! So there is probably no need to drain and refill the pool. The pool really is looking good, except for some debris blown in by the daily thunderstorms. Will need to be vacuumed again soon. Otherwise it looks really clean and clear. Too bad I'm too busy for a swim this afternoon. Implemented stage four of my 1, 2, 3, 4 punch strategy to eliminate the algae. I put a good dose of the polyquat algaecide into the pool this afternoon. That follows the copper algaecide treatment, the heavy cleaning and filer replacement, and the super shock. Between those four things, and lowering the CYA level in the pool, I think (hope) I may have the algae on the ropes.

The area of dead grass in the back yard is finally filling in. Daily waterings of the area have helped a lot. Filled up my gas cans today when I tanked up the truck. So now I have generator fuel for at least a while, if I need it. Set up my telescope on the north RV parking pad and took photos of the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. It's been a good day.

Algae dunes on the bottom of my pool. 06/28/15 - Copper algaecide and flocculent have dropped a lot of algae to the bottom of the pool. It has formed little dunes on the bottom sculpted by the water currents. Vacuumed pool. Swapped out the cartridge filter with a brand new one to get all that bio-burden out of the water circulation. Cleaned and sanitized the dirty filter. Checked pool chemistry. Chlorine almost nonexistent again. Added chlorine. Pool is blue and clear again. Re-installed the floating chlorine dispenser and a new floating thermometer. I never quite believed the old thermometer. This new one doesn't seem any more truthful. Pool temp just below 90 F if I can believe the thermometer. I will keep a close eye on the cyanuric acid level from now on. It is still a little high. I don't want to drive the pool back into chlorine lock. Ordered a phosphate test kit from Amazon a while ago. Still waiting on it to arrive. Will be interesting to see if high phosphate levels are driving the algae growth.

I kept hoping the sky would cloud up so I could mow the front yard without frying under the hot sun. No such luck. Very clear. I waited until the sun was low and the shadows long, then mowed the front yard. Checked pool chemistry again. For once it is perfect. Fired up the grill and took a swim while the charcoal got hot. Pool temp quite warm, but still refreshing after yard work in the heat. After dinner, I super shocked the pool with the last of my liquid chlorine to hopefully nuke any remaining algae issues. Note to self: Get more liquid chlorine.

06/26/15 - Brushed down pool walls. That made the water cloudy. Added flocculent. Checked pool chemistry. Chlorine essentially zero. Maybe due to a lot of dead algae after adding the copper algaecide? Hope springs eternal. Added chlorine. The garage door opener was straining to open the door. I lubed the tracks and wheels. Now it opens and closes a lot smoother and quieter.

06/24/15 - Checked pool chemistry. Chlorine getting low again. pH creeping up again. Funny how those two things seem to move in opposite directions. Added liquid chlorine and pH down. It occurred to me that I should probably be using muriatic acid to chlorinate and be getting pH reduction as a bonus, and not need to keep adding sulfate to the pool. Need to buy some muriatic acid. Checked cyanuric acid level again. It is down to about 110 ppm. Hasn't dropped much since the last test. So I suspect the CYA reducer is about played out. Still that is a big reduction from where it started out at about 220 ppm. Since the CYA reducer is a biological agent, I had been holding off on adding any more algaecide to the pool or shocking it. As a result, the algae has been getting pretty bad. So today I hit the pool with a dose of copper based heavy metal algaecide. Was going to brush down the sides of the pool, but about that time the thunder and lightning started. I decided holding a long aluminum pole might not be such a good idea. Maybe tomorrow. Pool temp back down to 86 F due to all the rain lately.

Since I was still in the mood to work, I retreated into the house and started hanging things on the walls. Hung a cork board on my office wall so I can tack things up without making lots of holes in the walls I had worked so hard to patch and paint a few months ago. Mounted the Carbon Monoxide detector on the wall in the hallway not too far from the fireplace. It had been sitting on a bookcase in the living room. It was time to give it a permanent home in a good location. Hung a bunch of my vacation photos and astrophotos on the living room walls. Been needing to do that for a long time. The walls don't look so blank now.

06/21/15 - Checked pool chemistry. Adjustments made yesterday brought chlorine and pH into line. The suspense was killing me, so I also tested the cyanuric acid level, even though it has been less than four days since I put the cyanuric acid reducer in the pool. The level is at about 125 ppm. That is quite a reduction from the level of about 220 ppm when I put it in. I am impressed! I'll check it again in another few days and see if it is further reduced.

Worked on various projects in the garage in the morning until it got too hot to stand it out there. It is going to be another scorcher of a day. Pool temperature approaching 90 degrees F again even without the solar panels on the roof in the circulation circuit. I'm not swimming much these days. Today is the longest day of the year. As the days and weeks go by from here on, the sun should move to the south and the days will start getting shorter. My neighbor's big oak tree to the southwest will shade the pool more in the afternoons. Hopefully the temperature will drop back down to refreshingly cool soon.

06/20/15 - Mowed, and edged back and side yards. They really needed it, but it has been so hot lately I kept putting it off. Cloudy and a little cooler than usual this afternoon, so I got it done. Checked pool chemistry. Chlorine low. pH getting high. Added liquid chlorine and some pH down.

Since it is hurricane season, I got my old generator out of storage and decided to make sure it still runs. Haven't run it in probably 5-6 years. Drained the dregs of old, stale gas out of it. Put in enough new gas to test it. It fired right up and worked great. Will begin filling my 5 gallon gas cans as I refill the tank in my truck so I will have a supply of fuel laid in. Buying a portable air conditioner for the garage seems an even better idea since it could also be used in conjunction with the generator to keep one room in the house livably cool during a long power outage. I remember what it was like back in 2004. If I make it through the season without needing to use the generator, I will burn up the gas in my truck before it goes stale and buy fresh gas next season. Probably should change the oil in the generator too.

06/17/15 - Stopped into Lowes on the way home from work and bought a few things for my various projects. I also picked up another new filter cartridge for the pool, and a jumbo size jug of weed killer, since I seem to be going through a lot of it lately. The second filter cartridge will allow me to quickly swap them out as needed. Then I will clean and sanitize the used one and put it in storage until needed again.

Speaking of the pool, The chlorine level has finally dropped to 3 ppm as of this afternoon. That's right in the butter zone for the cyanuric acid remover to work. So I put it in the pool. It will be interesting to see how well it works. It's going to take a week to ten days to know if it worked.

I've been taking notes on how the El Cheapo test strips I have been using compare to the results I get from my new deluxe pool chemistry test kit. For total chlorine, free chlorine, pH, and total alkalinity, they actually agree pretty well within the limited range covered by the strips. However for cyanuric acid, they differ radically. The strips have been dramatically under-reporting the cyanuric acid level. I do notice though that as the chlorine level in the pool drops, the cyanuric acid level reported by the strips is rising, but is still only about half what I read with the testing kit. Maybe the high chlorine level that existed in the pool was bleaching the indicator in the strips. I don't know why the level still reads low with the chlorine at a normal level. The strips just can't be trusted I guess.

Worked on projects in the garage for a while in the evening. Damn it is hot out there. The AC idea is looking better and better. I'd probably be out there working most evenings if the temperature was reasonable.

06/14/15 - Had a brilliant (I think) idea. I diluted one part pool water with three parts distilled water. Then I ran the cyanuric acid test again. This time I got a result of about 55 ppm. Multiply by four and the real reading is 220 ppm. Ok, now I can read the level of CYA in the pool even though my test kit tops out at 100 ppm. Bought an expensive bag of CYA reducer at the pool store today. It says it will reduce the level by 150 ppm. That will get the pool close to where it needs to be. The chlorine level in the pool is too high for the CYA reducer to work properly. So I'll have to wait until it drops. I pulled the floating dispenser out of the pool so no more chlorine and CYA enter the pool. Hopefully the sun will burn the chlorine out of the pool soon in spite of the high level of CYA in the water.

Used half a bottle of weed killer between the cracks and joints in the pool deck, driveway, and planters out front. Applied more fire ant killer to new mounds popping up in the front yard.

Went over to my mom's house and did some work for her hanging blinds on her windows.

Had another good idea. A portable air conditioner for the garage would only need its exhaust tube to be vented to the outside. It would be a lot easier to penetrate the block wall to install something like a dryer vent than to make an opening big enough to put in an entire window unit AC. Less work is good.

My new pool test kit. 06/13/15 - This is my new pool chemistry test kit. I bought it today. I spent some time reading the manual and learning how to do the tests. It gives me a much more complete and accurate picture of what is going on with the pool than I could get using the test strips I had been using. The good news is that the pool is not in as bad shape as I had feared. The cyanuric acid (CYA) level is excessively high like I had feared. Pretty much off the scale of the testing kit. The chlorine level is high, but not dangerously so. Everything else is within spec. So I don't have to stop using the pool. The pool is in what is called chlorine lock. The excessively high CYA level is making the chlorine ineffective. I need to get the CYA level down to something reasonable. There are products on the market that claim to remove CYA. I could also partly drain and refill the pool. It would probably be necessary to do that several times to get the level down. In any event, I am going to stop using stabilized chlorine products in the pool until I get the level down. There is no point in adding still more CYA to the pool. How did I get in this situation? I have been using stabilized chlorine both for normal sanitizing, and for shocking the pool since I moved in. The CYA stabilizer has been building up in the pool. I am the only one who uses it. I don't splash enough water out, or carry enough out to create significant water loss. The only real water loss is to evaporation. So the CYA level has just gone up and up over time. A little CYA stabilizes the chlorine and prevents sunlight from destroying it quickly. Too much CYA binds up the chlorine and prevents it from doing its job, which is why I have been having algae problems lately. I could probably dig out the bilge pump I use with my recirculating sluice I use for gold prospecting and use it to pump water out of the pool. And refill with tap water. Or I could try the CYA reducing product. I will probably try that first, just because it is so much easier.

Oh, and I almost forgot, I also bought some Polyquat algaecide and dosed the pool with the "visible algae" dosage. Hopefully that will help keep things under control until I can get the pool chemistry back into line. The nice thing about the Polyquat is that it doesn't foam. Not a bit, in spite of the large quantity I put in the pool. If the Polyquat doesn't work, I'll try a heavy metal algaecide.

06/11/15 - Mowed front yard and north side yard. Still feeling energetic, so I vacuumed the pool. The algae is getting out of control in the pool again. Chlorine levels constantly read high. Was very confused by this. Did some reading up on pool care. I suspect I have let the cyanuric acid level get too high. That can prevent the chlorine from working properly. I need to buy a better test kit to know for sure. The strips I have been using don't tell me enough. I may need to use a different type of chlorinating compound in the future. Shocked the pool with liquid chlorine this time. Hopefully I can get the algae back under control. Will be shopping for a better test kit.

06/10/15 - Very heavy rain this afternoon. The gutters on the north side of the house are finally draining properly! Hooray! Also a free inch of water for the pool!

The garage workshop is just too hot for serious work during the Summer, even with the ventilation fan and insulated door. I am considering installing an air conditioner. It will be a big job. About half the sheet rock on the ceiling had been removed for some reason before I moved in, and the garage is open to the hot attic. It will have to be replaced, and possibly insulated above. There is no window in the garage to install an AC unit in. A hole will need to be cut in the concrete block outside wall and framed out. I can probably do all the work myself, but I may wait until the cooler months to start work on it. However, I can begin estimating materials and buying them in advance. I will be on the lookout for a bargain on air conditioners. That is another reason to wait until cooler weather when they are in less demand.

06/08/15 - Went for a swim. Pool temp back up to 86 F. Starting to feel a little warm again even without the solar panels in the circulation loop. A string of hot and rain free days has really heated it up. The pool will need vacuuming again soon. The clarifier I added a few days ago dropped everything out of the water column, and the bottom is covered with a fine dusting of (hopefully) dead algae.

Had a good idea. Instead of hiring an electrician to run heavy duty wire all the way out to the back porch to power my big kiln, I could just buy a little lean-to shed and put it on the north side of the house where the 50 Amp RV outlet already is. I can install the kiln in the shed. Problem solved, and for probably less than the cost of the electrician and wire. Plus I will get to keep my back porch as a porch. Will be looking into small sheds.

I bought a used Broyhill server at a used furniture store. I got it cheap. I even talked the price down a little more below their already low asking price. My intention is to use it in place of a media console, which I have had no luck locating at a price I like. I plan to eventually buy a larger flat screen TV for the living room. I'll need something to put it on. What I have been using is too narrow and flimsy for a big, wide, and heavy TV.

06/07/15 - Added algaecide to pool. Hit the weeds and grass growing in the joints of the driveway with weed killer again. Treated fire ant hills near the mailbox with Amdro. Will need to mow the front yard soon. Checked pool chemistry. Emptied the pump filter basket. Shocked pool. Worked on various projects in the garage in the evening.

06/05/15 - Caulked the gap between the gutters and fascia on the north side of the house. Brushed down the walls of the pool. Vacuumed the pool. Added some extra algaecide and a little clarifier. By then it was getting late and the mosquitoes were coming out, so I skipped taking a swim.

06/04/15 - Mowed and edged back yard. Checked pool chemistry. Finally back to where it should be. Added new jumbo chlorine tablet to the floater. Went for a swim to cool off after sweating through all the yard work in 90 degree heat. Pool temp a little chilly at 82 F. The pool temp has really dropped off lately. A few recent gloomy days and lots of rain are probably the cause. Noticed some algae growth in spots in the pool. After my swim I added a dose of algaecide and then shocked the pool. Pool will need vacuuming again soon. Should brush the walls too.

The new recliner. 06/02/15 - Found a new (to me) beige leather recliner on Craig's List for a really reasonable price. Checked it out after work. It looks and smells brand new. So I bought it and brought it home. Stopped at a couple of other furniture stores on the way home. Still looking for a new media console and maybe some new end tables. No luck yet, but I am learning where all the used and consignment furniture stores are in the area. I'll check back with them periodically. I love buying used furniture. Let someone else take the full retail price hit on buying new furniture. I'll pick it up dirt cheap used, but still in great condition. I put the new leather recliner in the living room.

The sitting area in the master bedroom. I moved my old microfiber recliner onto the master bedroom. The master is a huge room. It always looked so empty with just my bed and a dresser in it. I hung some pictures on the walls, but that didn't help much. So I placed the new (to me) nightstand I bought yesterday and the old recliner in one corner and made a sitting area. Put a spare lamp on top of the nightstand and now I have a comfey and quiet spot to sit and read before bed.

06/01/15 - I'm furniture shopping again. I bought a new nightstand for the bedroom. I'm also looking for another recliner, and a media console for the living room. Picked up the nightstand on the way home from work. Later I got out my ladder and looked at the gutters on the north side of the house again. Didn't see any obvious issues. Took the hose up the ladder and ran it into the gutters. They drained fine. Hmmmm. Sprayed water on the roof above the gutters and let it run down into them. Ah Ha! The water wasn't really cascading over the top of the gutter as I thought last night. The water is running behind the gutters, then running around the curved surface of the gutters and running off the front. It just looked like the gutters weren't draining and were running over. I can fix this problem. Sometime when everything is good and dry up there, I will caulk the gap between the gutter and fascia with roofing caulk. That sorted out, I looked into another issue. The previous owners installed a fiendishly complex thermostat, but didn't leave me the manual. It has vexed even a big-time techie like me on many occasions when I have tried to reprogram it without the manual. I woke up this morning sweating again. The thermostat had switched to "away mode" and the temperature had risen to unacceptably high levels. Fed up, I trolled the web this afternoon to find a manual for it, since I wasn't having any luck trying to figure it out and correctly program it by trial and error. Finally found a PDF copy of the manual. It is 40 pages long! Damn, no wonder I couldn't figure it out on my own. Anyway, I think I have the weekday and weekend programs set properly now. I'll know for sure if I don't wake up sweating again.

New outlets for the kilns installed in the garage. 05/31/15 - Finally wired the new kiln outlets into the electric panel. Had to kill the power to the house since I didn't feel like being electrocuted today. Had a problem where the GFCI breaker tripped every time I turned on the kiln controller. After a little research I discovered I had made a rookie mistake and wired the neutral for the new outlets to the neutral bus in the panel instead of the neutral connection on the GFCI breaker. Ooops. After I fixed that, everything worked great. Now I can run my kilns and my dryer at the same time. No more having to schedule laundry and kiln firings around each other. Got in a little work on the CNC mill and did some weed eating in the back yard. It was a hot day today. I was ready for a cool swim. Checked pool chemistry. Free chlorine still strangely a little high, but otherwise it was good. Went for a swim. Ahhhhh. Cooked dinner on the grill. Skipped the usual Sunday shock treatment for the pool since the chlorine is already kind of high. It started raining late in the evening. Took a flashlight and umbrella and went out to check how the north side gutters were draining. The water is still cascading over the side of the gutters and nothing is coming out the downspout. There must still be a clog in there somewhere. Looks like I have more gutter work to do.

05/29/15 - A relatively cool afternoon for a change. Checked pool chemistry. pH and free chlorine still a little high. Added some more pH down to the pool. Vacuumed the pool. No bugs in the pool today. Checked pool chemistry again. Close enough. Went for a swim. Pool temp 84 degrees F. A little cool, but not too cold. Would feel better on a hotter day. Lounged by the pool well into the evening reading and relaxing after a hard week.

05/28/15 - Bought some pH Down at Lowes on the way home from work. Checked pool chemistry. pH still too high. Added some pH Down. I'll check the chemistry again tomorrow. At least there were fewer bugs floating on the surface of the pool today. They seem to come in waves. Heavy one day, light the next. Got out my new hedge trimmer and attacked the Jasmine on the back fence. It is just out of control and in danger of pulling the fence down. Hacked it back quite a bit. Filled an entire giant trash bin with the cuttings. May trim it back even further another day. I was still in a working mood, so I got the ladder out and looked into the gutter on the north side of the house. Still couldn't see any problem with it. So I got the hose out and took it up the ladder with me. I sprayed the hose in the gutter. It filled to the brim and nothing was coming out the bottom of the downspout. Turned out there was a big clog of oak leaves about 4 inches down the throat of the downspout. I had to disassemble the downspout and elbows to clear the clog. The whole downspout probably needs to be redone with the joints going the other direction, or leaves will just snag in it again and clog it again. It should work a lot better for now though. There should be no more waterfall the next time it rains.

05/27/15 - Was going to take a swim. Checked pool chemistry first. The pH was very high. Pretty much off the scale of the test strips I use. Very strange. Maybe due to all the rain lately and the fact that the pool sat unattended while I was away on vacation. I dumped a gallon of muriatic acid in it to try to bring the pH down. That just caused the free chlorine to skyrocket. Decided to skip the swim until I get the pool chemistry back in line. Don't want to turn my hair green or bleach my swimsuit white. The little bugs are back. The surface of the pool was again covered with a scum of them. Not sure what they are. Maybe swarming termites? If so, somebody somewhere has a termite infestation. Anyway. I skimmed a lot of them off the surface with the net and ran the pump so the skimmer could get the rest.

05/26/15 - Mowed front and north side yards before thunderstorms rolled in and the rain began. Rained all night. I really need to figure out why the gutters on the north side of the house aren't draining properly and the water is cascading down in a waterfall. Didn't see any obvious problems the last time I got the ladder out and checked, but something is definitely wrong.

05/25/15 - Re-hung the light fixture that fell down in the garage. Fortunately it still works. Took the weed eater to the worst of the weeds in the front yard. Also knocked down the grass and weeds growing in the expansion joints in the driveway. Followed up with spraying weed killer to hopefully prevent the stuff in the joints from growing back. Thought about mowing the front yard, but it was 93 degrees and I decided since it was a holiday today, I was going to pretend to still be on vacation for the rest of the day and goof off. Went shopping instead. Bought a hedge trimmer to use another day. Pool temp about 85 degrees. It has dropped a little since taking the solar panels out of the circulation circuit. Was going to take a swim, but thunderstorms rolled in. Settled for grilling dinner on the patio while listening to the thunder. It never did rain.

05/24/15 - Just got back from vacation. The pool water level is about where it was before I left. There must have been some rain while I was gone. Shocked pool. Added algaecide. Put two jumbo chlorine tablets in the floater since I forgot to put one in before leaving, and the one in it had completely dissolved away. For some reason there were a lot of dead bugs floating on the surface of the water. Ran the circulation pump for a few hours into the evening. The skimmer got rid of them. The pool will need vacuuming again soon. Found that the fluorescent light fixture over the washer and dryer in the garage had fallen down while I was away. Notably this is the one fixture in the garage I did not install. It was already here when I moved in. I'll need to fix it. Front yard needs mowing.

05/15/15 - Mowed back yard. Vacuumed pool. In preparation for going away on vacation for a while, I shocked the pool and added algaecide. I also added about an inch of water to it just in case the weather is dry while I am gone so the water level won't drop to the point the circulation pump is sucking air at the skimmer.

05/12/15 - Added about 3/4 inch of water to the pool to make up for evaporation. Shortly after that it rained and added at least another half inch of water. First significant rain in a while. The grass was really starting to get dry.

05/11/15 - Pool temperature is just short of 90 degrees F. It feels like warm bath water. It is no longer a cool and refreshing escape from the heat. The water loss due to evaporation is also higher at this elevated temperature. So I took the roof solar panels out of the loop. It will be interesting to see what temperature the pool stabilizes at without the extra solar input.

The newly insulated garage door. 05/10/15 - Kind of a lazy Sunday for a change. I did finish insulating the garage door in the morning. My goodness that insulation makes a difference. The uninsulated door in full morning sun would heat up too hot to touch and radiate enough heat to make the inside of the garage feel like an oven. Now it is just a little warm. I also did the usual pool maintenance of adding algaecide in the morning and shocking it in the evening. Otherwise, I didn't do much. I was just too tired and run down after the crazy long week I had at work. Took my mom out to lunch for Mother's day. Then just goofed off the rest of the day. Went for a swim and lounged by the pool well into the evening.

05/07/15 - Installed a wi-fi range extender in the third bedroom against the outside wall. Now I have a very strong wi-fi signal on the pool deck and back yard. Emptied pool skimmer basket. Checked pool chemistry. Couldn't be better. Took a swim. Sat on the pool deck and surfed the internet on my tablet enjoying the new stronger wi-fi signal and relaxed for a while.

05/04/15 - Mowed the front yard. Watered seeded area in back yard. Worked some more on insulating the garage door. It is now 3/4 done. Damn, it is a big door. Will need to re-arrange some equipment or move it outside to get the last 1/4 done. May wait until the weekend.

A new cartridge filter for the pool. 05/03/05 - AM: Added algaecide to the pool. Added new jumbo chlorine tablet to pool floater. Note to self: Buy more chlorine tablets. I noticed that the pool circulation seemed weak again yesterday. I had bought a new cartridge filter for the pool a while back. Decided that today was the day to install it. This photo shows the new filter next to the old one. I'll let you guess which is which. Shazam! The pool circulation is now stronger than I have ever seen it. The massage jets in the shallow end are really going strong. Cleaned the old filter. I will keep it for now as a backup, but it is pretty tired and beat-up. I will probably buy another new one next time I am in Lowes, then switch out and clean the two new ones as needed. Added some water to the pool to make up for evaporation. It has been cool, lately, but very dry and windy, the level of the pool dropped quick since the last rain. Worked on the CNC mill in the garage until the heat of the morning sun beating on the east-facing garage door made it too hot to tolerate, even with my new ventilation fan blowing. Note to self: Insulate the damn garage door.

PM: Went to Home Depot to buy some new batteries for my huge and growing collection of Ryobi cordless power tools. I prefer shopping at Lowes, but Home Depot seems to be the only place around here selling Ryobi tools. While I was there, I looked into insulation for the garage door. It was pricey, but I went ahead and bought two insulation kits since it is a two car garage. Looked at pool cartridge filters, but they were too expensive. They are cheaper at Lowes and Walmart. Ditto for the chlorine tablets. Bought some grass seed and spread it around a brown, barren area in the back yard and watered it in. Thought about mowing the front yard, but decided it can wait another day or two. Took a swim. Cooked dinner on the grill. In the cool of the evening I decided to take a crack at trying out the garage door insulation kits. I got about 1/4 of the way done with the door in about 20 minutes. Not bad. The rest should go easy now that I know how to do it. Should have the whole thing done in the next few days. I think I will gear up better for it next time. The fiberglass is irritating. I'll wear long sleeves and a dust mask. I'll post a photo once the job is done.

A fan installed in the window of the side door to the garage. 05/02/05 - Had to spend most of the day at work. Terrible way to spend a Saturday when the weather is so nice. Bought a small box fan on the way home. After a relaxing (but kind of chilly) swim in the pool and cooking dinner on the grill, I mounted the fan on the inside of the side door to the garage. The fan is mounted in front of the window so I can ventilate the garage without having to leave the door open and invite in every bug, toad and lizard in the neighborhood. The fan was mounted to the door using the same bolts and wing nuts used to hold on the security grid I mounted on the door last weekend.

05/01/15 - Had a crazy 13 hour day at work today. Thought about taking a swim when I finally got home. Decided I was too tired and it was too cool outside. Unusually chilly weather for this time of year. Pool temp back down to 82 F and it will probably drop more since it is going to get down to the low 60s tonight.

04/30/05 - A strong front blew through and has given us some cool temperatures. I decided to take advantage of of the cool weather to do some outside work. Mowed back and side yards. Blew debris off pool deck. Skimmed debris out of pool. Emptied pool skimmer basket. Vacuumed pool.

04/29/05 - It has been rainy and stormy for the last few days. The rain has kept the pool topped up without me needing to add any water. Unfortunately the stormy weather has also blown a lot of debris into the pool. It needs vacuuming again. Saw a huge rabbit in the side yard munching on grass. I didn't have a camera with me to get a photo. The grass needs mowing again. The warm temps and rain have it growing again, and growing fast.

A security grid installed on the window of the side door to the garage. 04/26/05 - Windy morning. May storm later today. Added algaecide to pool. Skimmed leaves out of pool blown in by wind. Installed security grid over window on garage side door. It alone won't keep a determined burglar out of the house, but it should help deter those looking for an easy entry point, out of sight from the road and the neighbors, where they could just smash a window and turn a door knob to get in. Added new jumbo chlorine tablet to pool floater. Emptied leaf skimmer basket. Topped off fluids in truck. Hosed down engine bay. Amazingly my Tacoma still looks brand new under the hood, even though it has 140,000 miles on it. It still runs great too. Shocked pool in the evening. Skimmed more leaves out of the pool. Worked on CNC mill for a while.

04/25/05 - Checked pool chemistry. Absolutely perfect. Checked leaf skimmer. No need to empty. Went for a swim. A great way to cool off and unwind after spending an especially long and hard day working at the SPAC Mirror Lab. Ordered a security grid for the window on the side door of the garage. It is the one place I am really concerned about people possibly breaking into the house. Ordered it online from Lowes a week ago, Picked it up at the store on the way home tonight. Will probably install tomorrow.

04/23/05 - We've had strong thunderstorms and heavy rain the past two days. I got 1/2 inch of free water added to the pool, but the stormy weather also blew in a lot of debris. Vacuumed pool. Emptied leaf skimmer. Emptied pump filter basket. Went after weeds popping up in the front yard with the string trimmer.

04/20/05 - Found a big toad in the pool leaf skimmer again. I don't know if it is the same toad for a third time, or a different toad. Anyway, if it has been the same one each time it didn't learn its lesson fast enough because this time it didn't survive the leaf skimmer vortex of doom. Shocked the pool. I had totally forgotten to do that on my usual Sunday schedule.

Jasmine in bloom on my back yard fence. 04/19/05 - The jasmine growing along the fence in the back yard is in full bloom. The smell is wonderful. Added new jumbo chlorine tablet to pool floater. Added algaecide to pool. Spent much of the day working on my CNC mill instead of working on the house. Basically I took most of this Sunday off from renovations. I did buy some door props while I was at Lowes buying stuff for the mill, but it started raining before I could install them on the front and garage doors.

04/18/05 - Checked pool chemistry. Perfect. Emptied leaf skimmer basket. Not much in it. Went for a swim. Contemplated painting the outside of the house while floating in the pool. Do I want to roll and brush, rent a paint sprayer, or just hire someone to do the job? Decisions, decisions. Watered dry area of grass on NW side of yard that is getting very brown. added a little water to the pool to make up for evaporation. It is supposed to rain in the next few days, so I didn't add as much as I would otherwise.

04/15/05 - Vacuumed the pool. Went for a swim.

04/14/05 - Mowed back and side yards. Used weed whacker on back and side yards to get stuff missed by previous operation. Used leaf blower to clean up the mess the previous two operations created. Skimmed out grass clippings and misc. debris blown into the pool by previous three operations. Pool still needs vacuuming, but I am tied, sweaty and filthy. I'll save that operation for another day. Time for a shower. Talked fences with my neighbors to the north. Floated the idea of going halves on replacing the fence between our yards like my neighbor to the south did with me. They seemed receptive to the idea.

04/12/05 - Added algaecide to the pool. Checked pool chemistry again. Pretty close to perfect. The extra chlorine tab and last night's shock seem to have pulled things into line. Went all Texas Chainsaw Massacre on the papaya tree in the back yard. I cut it down, then chopped it up into pieces small enough to fit in my trash bins. No more rotten, bug infested fruit. No more fronds dropping. I'll plant something else in that corner of the back yard. I was amazed that my old Poulan chainsaw fired right up after only a couple of pulls. I haven't used it in probably six or seven years. Forgot I even owned a chainsaw. I rediscovered it while moving all my junk out of my rented workshop space last month. It came in handy today. Sprayed more weed killer on weeds growing in the planter beds at the front of the house.

04/11/05 - Found another big toad in the pool skimmer, or maybe it was the same one again. Hope it learned its lesson this time. Checked pool chemistry. Chlorine was a little low and pH was a little high. Added a second chlorine tablet to the pool floater since the higher temps and sunnier days seem to be burning off the chlorine faster. Took a swim. Shocked pool. Added a little more water to the pool. It has been warm and dry. Will be nice when the rainy season begins.

04/10/05 - Checked pool skimmer basket. Still clean. Added new jumbo chlorine tablet to pool floater. Went for a swim. thermometer says pool is still at 86 F. Feels warmer. Starting to feel very warm. Pool will need vacuuming soon. There are some leaves and sediment accumulating in it. Some more of the papayas are ripening. Decided to check one out. It was nice and golden in color. Looked perfectly ripe and nice. Cut it in half and it was absolutely full of maggots. It also stunk really bad. So much for the papayas. Oh well, I don't really like papayas all that much anyway. Since the tree is just producing maggot infested fruit, and making a mess in the back yard, I am even more convinced it needs to go.

04/08/05 - Checked pool skimmer basket. No need to empty it. The pool is staying remarkably clean. Did some repair work on the fence on the north side of the yard. The fence will need to be replaced soon. Talked to my neighbor on the south side. He is interested in splitting the cost of new fencing on that side. Not a bad idea. Sprayed weed killer on weeds in joints in pool deck and along the wall of the house out front.

04/07/05 - Checked pool skimmer basket. There was a large toad in it. I'm sure it was very happy to be rescued. Pool temp at 86 F. It is going to be as warm as bath water soon. added about 1/2 inch of water to the pool to make up for evaporation.

Water damage under the kitchen sink. 04/05/05 - Busy day today. AM: Added algaecide to the pool. Sprayed down dingy pool furniture with mildew remover and rinsed. Looks like new. Went to Lowes and picked up a bunch of stuff for various projects. Noticed how grungy the truck bed was while unloading after the Lowes run. Hosed out the bed of the truck. Sprayed weed killer on some nasty things growing in the front yard. Picked a bunch of the green papayas off the papaya tree and put them out with the trash before they could start rotting, Some of them were the size of soccer balls.

PM: Fixed the water damage under the kitchen sink. There was obviously a leak under there at some point in the past. The particle board in the base of the cabinet got soft and nasty, and sagged down. It is hard to tell from the photo, but the whole thing was dished down about 4 inches or more. Anything I wanted to store under there wanted to slide down to the bottom of the bowl. So I cut a couple of pieces of plywood to make a new flat base. I used marine grade plywood just in case there is ever another leak. Made a second trip to Lowes (good thing it is close) to get some electrical connectors I thought I already had, but didn't. Worked on adding separate high-current outlets for the kilns in the garage so I won't always have to plug into the dryer outlet. The kilns can run for a week or more straight. Not being able to use the dryer during that time is a pain, and requires advance planning and scheduling of laundry and kiln firings. This is the issue I dealt with for years at my last place. I want separate outlets on their own circuits here so I can run the kilns and still do my laundry too. Everything is wired up and ready to attach to the breaker panel. Someday soon I will kill the power to the house at the main breaker and wire the outlets into the circuit for the 50 Amp RV plug on the side of the house. Mowed the front yard. Emptied pool pump inlet filter basket. Went for a swim in the pool. Pool temp back up to 84 F. Shocked pool. Cooked dinner on the grill. Worked on the CNC mill a little in the evening.
The water damage has been fixed.

Here are some before and after pictures of the under sink repair job.

04/04/05 - Went for a swim in the pool in the evening. After I got out I spent some time caulking more of the cracks in the pool deck. The deck is looking a lot better. I need maybe one more tube of concrete caulk and I'll have all the cracks patched.

04/03/05 - The days have been nice and warm for the last week but the nights are still a little chilly. The pool temp has recovered back up to 82 degrees F. Checked pool chemistry. Perfect. Emptied skimmer basket. There wasn't much in it. The pool has stayed very clean since the last vacuuming. The weekly algaecide treatments and shocks seem to be keeping the algae under control. The water is crystal clear. Went for a swim. Took my caulking gun with me and touched up some of the caulking work under the lip of the pool deck that I did last month. Then I just soaked and relaxed for a while. The previous owners planted a papaya tree in the back yard. It is absolutely loaded with huge green papayas. They go from green to bright orange and rotting practically overnight. Picked off the over-ripe fruit and some dead fronds and threw them away. Unfortunately my diet does not allow for eating papaya. I have never really liked it that much anyway. I'm tempted to cut down the tree, but it is huge, and very heavy with green fruit. It could easily take out the fence, or me, when it falls.

03/29/05 - We've had a bit of a cold snap. The pool temp has crashed back down to 74 F. Guess I won't be swimming again for a while. The cold, rainy, stormy weather was accompanied by a couple of very windy days. So the pool had a lot of debris in it. Vacuumed pool. Checked pool chemistry. Pretty good, the pH is just a touch high. Added algaecide. Shocked pool. Finally set up one of my kilns (the medium size one) for use in the garage. Started a 3+ day long anneal firing of a thick slab of glass with lots of stress in it. Will be interesting to see how much the kiln heats up the garage. Spent much of the day working on various aspects of my CNC mill. Made good progress on it. I should be painting, but I need to build something in my garage workshop. The maker in me demands it. Paint can wait. Cooked dinner on the grill. Getting chilly in the evening. Tempted to start a fire in the fireplace.

A smoke detector with a dead battery. 03/23/05 - Why, oh why do batteries in smoke detectors only ever go dead at 3:00 am? I never come home from work and find them chirping. They never start up during dinner. It is always at 3:00 am. Had to get up, stumble around the house barely awake, figure out which of the three was the one chirping (not easy), get a ladder out of the garage, pull it down off the ceiling, and remove the battery. Then I had to try to get back to sleep.

03/22/05 - Busy day today. Sunday may be a day of rest for some people, but for me it is the only day I have time to work on the house and extensively on my various projects. AM: Checked pool chemistry. Perfect. Added algaecide. Continued arranging stuff in the garage and storage shed. Made room for what ought to be the last load from my rented workshop space. Changed out all the AC air filters. This house has three different filters, of three different sizes, of course. Got in some work on my new CNC mill. PM: Brought home the last load of stuff from the workshop. It is all finally home. Put it all away in the storage shed and garage. It is all pretty well organized, but no doubt will get better over time. Went to Lowes and bought some plywood. Laid the plywood down in the attic to make more floor space for storage. Added two more lights in the attic to augment the single bulb up there. Fired up the grill and took a swim in the pool to cool off while waiting for the charcoal to get hot. Added about 1/2 inch of water to pool to offset evaporation. Cooked dinner on the grill. Shocked pool. Worked on the CNC mill in the garage until about 9:00 pm. It's been a good, productive day. Think I'll take the rest of the day off.

03/20/05 - Vacuumed pool. Sprayed weed killer on weeds sprouting through cracks and joints in pool deck.

03/18/05 - Mowed the back yard. Got in some more work on the CNC mill. Pool needs vacuuming.

03/17/05 - Spent the evening arranging the garage. Got it even better looking and more usable. Got in some good work on my CNC mill build. Back yard still needs mowing. Too tired now.

03/16/05 - Spent the afternoon still arranging things brought home from the workshop. Made good progress. Garage is cluttered but usable. Threw out some stuff, but need to part with a lot more. Moved some rarely used items into the attic. Still need to figure out how to add shelving up there. Hung a third fluorescent light in garage to brighten it up at night. Fixed poorly wired optical sensor for garage door. Back yard needs mowing. Added new jumbo chlorine tablet to pool floater.

03/15/05 - Busy Sunday. AM: Shocked pool. Added algaecide. Cleaned junk out of storage shed to make room for more stuff from my rented workshop. PM: Brought home another massive load of stuff from my rented workshop space, including a big new air compressor. Arranged stuff. Mowed front lawn. Checked pool chemistry. Chlorine still a little high after morning shock. Screw it. Took a swim to cool off after all the hard labor today. Pool temp holding at 84 degrees F. Fired up the grill and cooked dinner on my patio. It's been a good, productive day.

03/14/05 - Brought home a massive load of stuff from my rented workshop space. Spent the evening arranging things.

03/13/05 - Glad to be home after a hard week at work. Checked pool chemistry. It's perfect. Emptied pool skimmer basket. Vacuumed pool. Went swimming. Ahhhhhhhhhhh. Worked on CNC mill into the evening.

03/12/05 - Pool temp up to 84 degrees F. Wow, it is really heating up. The return water pipe from the roof solar panels is quite warm on these warm sunny days. The pool may actually get too hot during the Summer. I may need to take the panels back out of the circuit during the hotter months. The pool is looking like it needs vacuuming again. Too tired after work today to vacuum it, or swim in it. Maybe tomorrow.

03/10/05 - Got home late after an extra long day at work. I was tired, but after resting a little while, I surprised myself by finding the energy and ambition to get into the pool and finish caulking the cracks between the top of the liner and the bottom of the deck. I also caulked some more of the cracks in the top of the deck. I noticed the circulation in the pool seemed weak. So I checked the pool cartridge filter. It was almost completely clogged after all the crap the oak trees dropped into the pool in the last month. I cleaned the filter. The circulation is back to being robust again. The massage jets in the shallow end are working well again. Pool temp back up to 80 degrees F. That was a quick recovery.

03/08/15 - Oh what a difference a few cool and cloudy days make. The pool temp is back down to 76 F. I think the solar panels act as radiators on cloudy days and actually cool down the pool. On the bright side, the pool is staying a lot cleaner. I think the oak trees are about done dropping leaves, flowers and pollen. They are leafing out nicely in lovely new dark green leaves that seem very well attached to the trees. Shocked pool. added algaecide. Added about 3/4 inch of water to the pool to offset evaporation. Brought the biggest load yet home from my workshop. All the big stuff is now home. Just need to bring home a few more things and clean up the place. Spent the rest of the day arranging things and working on my CNC mill. Exhausted.

03/05/15 - Emptied very full skimmer basket. Pool temp 80 degrees F. Got back in the pool after work today and caulked the cracks between the bottom lip of the pool deck and the pool liner. The deck overhangs the edge of the pool all around, and makes access to the problem area from above nearly impossible. I got about 2/3 of the cracks caulked before running out of concrete sealant caulk. I'll buy more and tackle the rest another day. The next few days are predicted to be cool and cloudy, so I am expecting the pool temp to drop off rapidly again. It may be a while before I get to go swimming again.

03/04/15 - Skimmed leaves and oak tree flowers out of pool. Emptied very full skimmer basket. Brushed down sides of pool. Vacuumed pool. Pool temp 78 degrees F. Warm enough. I put on my bathing suit and finally got into my pool. Whew, after three months of cleaning and caring for the pool without being able to use it, it was great to actually get into it and splash around and get some exercise. That was fun. The bad news is that I was also finally able to get a good close-up look and feel of the worn areas in the pool. The pool will need resurfacing soon. I also got a look at the cracks between the deck and the liner under the lip of the deck. I think I can fix those myself. The next time I go swimming, I'll be taking my caulking gun with me.

The big kiln finally on my back porch. 03/03/15 - Skimmed oak tree flowers out of pool. Emptied skimmer basket. Swept accumulated oak tree flowers off the pool deck before the wind could blow them in the pool. Checked pool chemistry. Chlorine a little high. Pool still needs vacuuming. I was surprised at how warm the water was when I emptied the skimmer basket. The water is up to nearly 80 degrees! Just three warm and sunny days in a row made a dramatic difference in the pool temperature. The solar panels on the roof are really working. I might just clean up the pool and get into it for the first time tomorrow. Moved the big kiln out of the garage and onto the back porch. Still need to get power to it, but at least it is out of the garage and I have more room to work. My smallest kiln can be seen peeking out behind the big monster in the photo. Got in some more work on the base of my new CNC router in the evening.

03/02/15 - Skimmed leaves and oak tree flowers out of pool. Emptied skimmer basket. Swept accumulated oak tree flowers off the pool deck before the wind could blow them in the pool. Pool still needs vacuuming. Put up another shelf in the garage. Brainstormed how to get even more shelving in the wasted space above the washer and dryer. Whoever installed the washer and dryer didn't think ahead. They have the doors opening toward each other, making it impossible to easily transfer wet clothes from the washer into the dryer. Someday I need to switch their places. Got in some work on the base of my new CNC router.

03/01/15 - AM: Added algaecide to pool. Shocked pool. Pool needs vacuuming again. Inspected leaking gutters on north side of house. Will caulk them when they are thoroughly dry. PM: Emptied pool skimmer basket. Brought a huge load of stuff from my rented workshop space, including the big kiln. Spent the rest of the afternoon and evening arranging and storing away the stuff in the garage and storage shed. Went to Lowes and bought some more shelf brackets to put up another shelf in the garage. Also bought some new garden hoses and misc hardware. Textured paintable wallpaper is looking like an option for the kitchen.

The strangest coincidence happened today. I had decided that the fireplace grate was worn out beyond repair and had begun shopping for a new one. The cheapest option was about $50. I almost ordered it, but decided to wait. I stopped at a garage sale today on the way to my workshop. There was a perfect fireplace grate for sale and I got it for only $5! Funny how things work out.

02/29/15 - Skimmed leaves out of pool. Emptied skimmer basket.

02/26/15 - We have a new record. The pool skimmer was completely plugged with a solid mass of oak tree leaves and flowers. I should have taken a picture. It was crazy. The bottom of the pool was completely carpeted with leaves. By far the worst 24 hr accumulation of crap in the pool to date. Strangely the wind was out of the north all day, and the worst offending oak tree is just across the fence in my southern neighbor's yard. Yesterday the wind was out of the south and the pool stayed clean. I don't get how that works. Must be some strange eddies created by the geometry of the houses in this area that moves the tree debris is the opposite direction of the wind. Anyway, I emptied the skimmer basket, and scooped as many of the leaves out of the pool as I could. Paid my mortgage. Looked at lots of potential wallpaper patterns for the kitchen. Still no good idea what I really want to do in there.

02/24/15 - Emptied pool skimmer basket. Vacuumed pool. The oak trees will probably just fill it up with crap again over the next few days, but I was tired of looking at it as messy as it was. Emptied filter basket at pump. Added new giant chlorine tablet to floater. The grass isn't growing this time of year, but the weeds are. Knocked down weeds with string trimmer. Swept accumulated leaves off pool deck before they could get into the now pristine pool. Installed new shelf in garage. Re-arranged material brought from storage last weekend. Brainstormed about how to add even more shelving to the garage. I've got too much stuff

02/23/15 - Finished the base for the large kiln. I can now bring the kiln home from storage and set it up. Still need to get power to it. Emptied pool skimmer basket. Brainstormed how to add extra shelving to the garage. Bought some shelf brackets and other parts at Lowes. Worked on the base for my new CNC router.

02/21/15 - Continued working on the base for the large kiln. Also started work on my new CNC router design. Hung a new fluorescent light fixture in the garage over my work bench since it was too dark to work in there. Added algaecide to the pool. Brought a huge load of stuff home from my rented workshop space and arranged most of it efficiently. I've got too much stuff. Some of it has to go. Decisions, decisions.

02/21/15 - Continued working on the base for the large kiln.

02/20/15 - Skimmed as much crap as I could out of the pool. Shocked pool. Moved the MOM outside and covered it with a large grill cover, opening up lots of space in the garage. Began building the stand for the big kiln so it will be ready when I bring it home from storage.

02/19/15 - The pool is a depressing mess to look at. There is no point in even trying to clean it right now since more crap from the oak trees is continually being blown into it by the relentless wind. It is also the coldest day of the year so far. I'm staying indoors. I purchased large grill covers at Lowes on the way home from work. Will use them to cover equipment to be stored outside. I have to be out of my rented workshop space before April 1st, so it is time to get serious about where to store everything that has to come home.

02/18/15 - The oak trees are at it again. Now it is their little wormy flowers that that are filling the pool. There is a solid brown ring around the pool at the waterline. The bottom of the pool is carpeted with crap. I emptied the leaf skimmer, which was quite clogged. The pool needs vacuuming, but there is no point while the wind is blowing at gale force and dumping loads more stuff in the pool all the time. Besides, it is freezing outside. Much too cold for watersports.

02/16/15 - Brushed down the sides of the pool at the waterline. Lots of crap from the oak trees was forming a brown ring there. Skimmed accumulated leaves out of the pool. Not many considering it has been over a week since I did it last. Yay! Checked pool chemistry. No changes needed. Pool temp has dropped to 68 degrees. Not surprising considering how bitterly cold the weather has been the last week.

02/15/15 - Just got back from a four day camping and astronomy trip. Was pleasantly surprised to find very few leaves in the pool, and the water nice and blue and clear. Emptied skimmer basket. added algaecide to keep it looking good. Found a better place to store the big 17.5 inch telescope in the garage, opening up lots of work space. Decided to store the Mirror-O-Matic machine outside on the RV parking pad. Will purchase a large grill cover to keep the weather off of it until I need it. That will open up more work space in the garage.

02/08/15 - AM: Emptied pool skimmer basket. Checked pool chemistry. Added algaecide. Brushed down pool walls. Installed new wall plate at hallway light switch. PM: Brought another small load of stuff from my rented workshop space. Still trying to figure out how to store and arrange everything still there when I bring it all home. Tidied up garage. Vacuumed pool. Shocked pool. Pool temp at 72 degrees. Not bad considering how cold it has been lately. Still too cold for me. A week of warm sunny weather would probably get the pool warm enough to get into. Contemplated wallpapering the kitchen walls instead of painting. Looked at wallpaper patterns online. Didn't find anything I really loved. What to do with the kitchen is still up in the air.

02/05/15 - Skimmed leaves out of pool. Emptied skimmer basket. Emptied filter basket at pump. I hope we have passed the peak of the leaf problem. The oak trees are almost barren, and there weren't many leaves in the pool in spite of it having been windy today. Pool desperately needs vacuuming. I'm too tired and it is too cold for further watersports today. At least the pool water is nice and clear and blue. No more algae problem. Will vacuum another day. Built a big fire in the fireplace and relaxed the rest of the evening.

02/03/15 - Finally got a second coat of paint on the hallway walls. Pulled off painter's tape on trim. Looks good. Still need to paint the hallway baseboard and scrub the door frame trim.

02/02/15 - Skimmed leaves out of pool, thousands of them. It's the worst 24 hr accumulation I've seen so far, and the wind is still gusting at gale force. I guess it is going to be like this every winter when the oak trees drop their leaves. A bird cage may be in my future.

02/01/15 - Checked pool chemistry. Added algaecide. Emptied skimmer basket. Added new jumbo chlorinating tablet to floater. Pool needs to be vacuumed, but the wind keeps blowing more leaves into it off the neighbor's oak tree. Will wait for a calm day. Blew accumulated leaves off pool deck before they wound up in pool. Brought another load of stuff from my rented workshop space and arranged it in the garage. Replaced burned out light in range hood. I can see what I am cooking now.

02/01/15 - Emptied pool skimmer basket. Built a heat shield from cement board around my small kiln in the garage to block the radiant heat when in use. Will try using this kiln in the garage and see if it makes too much heat. Still trying to figure out how to get power to the back porch for the big kiln.

01/30/15 - Shocked pool. Skimmed leaves out of pool. Emptied skimmer basket. The fricking oak trees are killing me. Can't wait until they are done dropping their leaves.

01/29/15 - Skimmed leaves out of pool. Emptied skimmer basket.

01/28/15 - Skimmed leaves out of pool. Emptied skimmer basket.

01/25/15 - Added algaecide to pool. Shocked pool (hopefully with enough chlorine this time). Built my new workbench for the garage. Here is a video of the workbench build. Put the old workbench out with the trash. Built a big fire in the fireplace with scrap wood left over from the workbench build. I relaxed in front of the fire until it burned down to ashes. It's been a good day.

01/24/15 - Scooped most of the leaves out of the pool that were dropped into it by yesterday's wind storm. Will vacuum it again another day. Blew a solid 3 inch layer of accumulated leaves off the front porch. Can't wait until the oak trees are done dropping their leaves. Straightened out the garage again (how does it keep getting so messy?). Got a coat of paint on the hallway walls. It will need a second coat. Good News! All the patching and caulking of the patio roof seems to have worked. There were no leaks last night in spite of having a very heavy downpour. The porch is now dry enough that I feel confident in placing my kilns out there.

Poorly plumbed pool piping. 01/23/15 - When I was house hunting I really didn't want a house with a pool. I figured it would be a lot of extra work and expense and I wouldn't use it enough to justify it. Thing is, all the best houses my agent showed me had pools. So all the houses I made offers on had pools. And as a result, the house I finally bought has a pool. I warmed to pools in the end. I figured the exercise of using it and cleaning it would be good for me. I have also become a lot more popular now that I have a pool. A lot of people will want to be my friend in the warm weather months. It has turned out to be a lot of work so far, and I haven't even been able to get into it yet because it is too cold. Had a bit of an algae bloom in the pool. Turns out I had underestimated the size of the pool, and wasn't using enough chemical when shocking the pool. Things eventually got out of control. I didn't quite turn it into a green swamp, but it was close. After doing some actual measuring and some educated guestimation of the irregularly shaped pool, it is probably 50% larger than I originally thought. The algae seems to be under control at the moment. The water is nice and clear and blue again. Unfortunately it is also full of leaves. Had a bad windstorm today and half the leaves from my neighbor's oak tree seem to have landed in and sunk to the bottom of the pool today. so I'll be vacuuming the pool again tomorrow probably. Should have bought a house with a birdcage around the pool.

Fortunately it will now be a lot easier to clean the vacuumed up leaves out of the leaf strainer. I don't know who plumbed this system originally, but they ran the output pipe from the pump across the top of the leaf strainer housing. It was difficult to open the housing and there was no way to get the basket out to clean it without breaking the pipes at the union and twisting the fitting at the pump around about 90 degrees. It sucked every time I had to do it, the fitting was starting to leak, and sooner or later I was going to break something.

Poorly plumbed pool piping. So I bought some pipe and fittings and re-ran the pipe around the leaf strainer. I can't believe nobody has done this before. It only took a few minutes and cost next to nothing. The pipes had clearly been cut apart and joined back together several times, judging by all the couplings on it. Why didn't anybody else decide to fix it properly?

While I had the system torn apart I removed and cleaned the filter cartridge. Man was it full of crap. Probably hasn't been cleaned in a long time.

01/22/15 - Filed for Homestead Exemption. Glad I was able to do it online and didn't have to trek down to the Tax Collector's office and wait in line.

01/20/15 - Vacuumed pool again. Note to self: Shock pool a day before vacuuming it, not a day after. All the suspended particles fell out of the water column and made the bottom of the pool look dirty again. Added new jumbo chlorinating tablet to floater. Looks like I get about two weeks out of a tablet. They may go faster when the weather warms up. Added about half an inch of water to the pool to make up for evaporation. Bought an old solid core door to be the top of a new work bench I am building for the garage.

01/19/15 - AM: Finally hung curtains in master bedroom. Already had blinds up for privacy, but the curtains will make it darker and prevent Mother Nature's alarm clock (the Sun) from waking me up on days when I want to sleep in a little. Checked pool chemistry. It was ok, but the water was cloudy. Added shock treatment with clarifier. Blew ponded water off the patio roof with my leaf blower so the roof would dry out. PM: Caulked more seams on patio roof. Replaced broken glass window in storage shed with a plexiglass panel. Priced and Investigated the possibility of installing a fold-down attic access ladder. Existing attic opening is too small. Would need to be enlarged. Brainstormed how to build shelving in attic space for storage of rarely used items. Re-arranged and neatened up garage. Whew! I'm beat.

A new screen door closer cylinder installed. 01/18/15 - Installed new closer cylinder on back porch screen door. Brushed pool walls. Vacuumed pool. Emptied pool leaf strainer basket. Caulked holes in storage shed roof. Someone had been using the storage shed for target practice with a pellet gun. Finally found the problem with wiring to back yard power outlets. It was a totally amateur installation and there is a dead short in the wiring somewhere. Someone cut the wires, probably to prevent a circuit breaker from popping due to the short. Haven't decided if I want to try to fix it, or just rip it out and use extension cords when I need power out back.

01/14/15 - Been pretty busy with work and other things lately. Haven't had much time or left-over energy to work on the house. I did manage to hang some more art on the walls in my office and the master bedroom. Also purchased and installed shower curtain and liner in the second bathroom. Installed bump guards on walls behind door knobs that had previously punched holes in the walls that I had patched. Notes to self, buy more asphalt caulk to patch remaining leaks on patio roof. Need to clean pool. Got a three day weekend coming up. Maybe I can tackle some projects.

01/11/15 - Spent a pretty lazy weekend without doing too much work on the house. I bought seat cushions for the new dining chairs. Brought another load of stuff from my rented workshop space and arranged it in the garage and storage shed. Hung some more photos on the walls. Put a large pile of stuff out at the curb for the metal scavengers and garbage men on Monday. I'm determined not to be a hoarder and clutter up the house too much, even though I have the space to store a lot of stuff just in case I might need it in 10 years. Ha! Realistically, some projects are simply never going to get done, so why hang on to stuff for them forever? Lots of other little jobs around the house need doing, but I am low on ambition just now.

01/08/15 - Tired today. Put up coat hooks at entryway closet. Reset pool circulation pump timer to start later and run later to take advantage of maximum solar heating at the roof panels. That is all the reno I had energy for after work today. The house is getting nice enough it doesn't need a whole lot of work every day. Sometimes I can just sit and relax and enjoy the fruits of my previous labor.

01/07/15 - Put two coats of paint on baseboard in front entryway. Looks good. Poked around in attic trying to determine best way to run power to the back porch for my kilns. May need to hire an electrician.

01/06/15 - Installed towel bar by kitchen sink. Added supports under sagging shelves in kitchen cabinets. Taped off baseboard in front entryway in anticipation of painting it.

01/05/15 - Vacuumed ashes out of fireplace (they were stone cold and from many days ago). Mowed and trimmed back yard. Checked pool chemistry. No changes required. Added new jumbo chlorine tablet to floater. Emptied leaf skimmer basket. Observed comet Lovejoy with binoculars and 8 inch scope from pool deck after dark.

01/04/15 - My back is feeling much better. Finally got onto the roof. Inspected minor leaks at pool solar water heater panel fittings. Decided they were too minor to bother with. Caulked joints in patio roof. Caulked gutters over garage door and front porch. Cleaned junk out of attic. Brought a load of equipment from my rented workshop space and re-arranged storage for it all in the garage and storage shed. Pool is heating up. Temp has gone up 5 degrees in only a few days.

My new dining table and chairs. 01/03/15 - Took it easy today due to sore back. New furniture was delivered early AM. Found a piece of glass I already had on hand works well on top of new dining table. Hung some photos, posters and mirrors on the bare walls in office, living room, and front entryway.

01/02/15 - Back very sore today. Hurt it somehow painting yesterday. Assembled and tested new battery-powered weed eater. Works great. Back too sore for serious yard work. Went shopping at used furniture stores for needed pieces. Found a dining set and a dresser I liked, and a treadmill as a bonus, to help accelerate the weight loss. Bought them and arranged for delivery due to my sore back. Bought three more gallons of wall paint.

01/01/15 - Finished assembling and testing new lawn mower. Mowed about half of back yard to test it out. Works great. Began raining. Will finish mowing another time. Went shopping for a ladder tall enough to allow me to easily get on the roof and into the attic. Also bought some PVC pipe and fittings needed to re-route poorly plumbed pool piping. Put second coat on front entryway walls. Looks great. Still need to paint baseboard. Hurt my back somehow while painting.

12/31/14 - Got off work early today. Put up towel bars in master bathroom. How did the previous owners manage with no towel bars anywhere?

12/28/14 - Vacuumed pool. Cleaned pool filter. Checked pool chemistry. Raised pool pH. Switched roof solar water heater panels back into pool circuit. Spotted minor leak in one panel, decided it was too minor to worry about. Only one drip every few seconds. Panels definitely working. Return water is warmer. Note to self, get thermometers to monitor water temperature, and buy algaecide. Filled some cracks in pool deck. Unboxed and began assembly of new lawn mower. Patched and painted front entryway. Will need at least one more coat.

12/27/14 - Brushed pool sides. Emptied pool leaf strainer. Sprayed weed killer on weeds growing from cracks and joints in pool deck. Filled some cracks in pool deck. Investigated why there is no power to backyard outlets and storage shed. Suspect break in underground cable or fault in one of several junction boxes. Will need to investigate further. Had friends over to see the house. They liked it, in spite of it still being a work in progress. Strained remaining wall paint through cheese cloth into a new clean bucket. Note to self, buy three more gallons. Taped off trim in front entryway in anticipation of painting walls.

12/26/14 - Replaced flapper valve in master bathroom toilet. It no longer runs several times at night and wakes me up. Hooray! Added soap dish, bottle caddy, and bench to master bath shower. Investigated leaking roof on screened porch. I think it will be an easy fix, but ladder is too short to allow me to safely get on and off the roof. Will fix after acquiring taller ladder.

12/25/14 - Had difficulty with oven. Would not come up to set temperature. Transferred dish I was making for family get-together to toaster oven and finished it there. After further experimentation I found that the oven does work, but temperatures do not match printing on dial (wrong dial?). After returning from family get-together, built first real fire in fireplace. Chimney draws well. Fireplace actually produces significant heat and warmed up the living room nicely on a chilly evening.

12/24/14 - Got home early from work so decided to fix sagging and leaking gutters above garage door. Rained later. Much better. No more waterfall. Still needs more caulk and new downspouts.

12/23/14 - Peeled off painter's tape shielding walls and floors around baseboard in living room. Touched up a few spots on baseboard. Replaced stained and rusty HVAC registers near ceiling in living room with shiny new ones. Put new wall plates on outlets and switches in living room. Moved furniture back in place.

12/22/14 - Put second coat of paint on living room baseboard.

12/21/14 - Moved furniture away from living room walls. Taped off walls above and tile floors below living room baseboard with painter's tape. Painted baseboard. Will need another coat. Replaced faulty dimmer switches for back porch and hallway lights with regular on/off switches. (Why in the world did previous owners use dimmers on these lights anyway?)

12/20/14 - Move-in day! Hired movers to load up all my furniture at the condo and move it into the house. No more DIY moving for me. I'm getting too old for that s#*t. They put everything right where I wanted it. I didn't have to do anything but keep them supplied with cold drinks and tip them before they left.

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